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People of Vision improve healthcare

Right now there is a national conversation about health care in America. And without the ability to predict the future, many wonder what outcomes we will be facing in the next year, or even in the next months or days.

But one thing I can speak to, is what we have right now and how we might make the best of the critical health care resources we have today.

We know that Indian people don’t have good health care because of systemic failures in the agencies and organizations responsible for providing this care. But what we are blessed with in our community, that makes it possible to overcome this systemic failure, is vision.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal seal includes the language, “A People of Vision,” and again and again this rings true and this vision is what allows us to lead in areas where other communities struggle.

At the heart of vision is the ability to gauge what the future might hold, then through taking bold, yet educated steps, we meet the challenges coming down the pike.

Some of the steps we have taken as a Tribe include making health and wellness a priority, then executing our rights to self-governance — ultimately allowing us to make decisions about how we will invest in health, and how we will build our own unique system to delivery health and wellness services.

The good news is that today, we aren’t wed to those same agencies that have systemic failures regarding health and wellness in Indian Country. At Flathead, we are driving. It’s our agenda.It doesn’t mean, though, that change happens overnight. But what is important is that as we are gauging the future, and as we determine our vision, we are creating a new system for increasing health and wellness in our community.

I firmly believe that it starts long before a person needs to access health care because they are sick, but instead right at the start of life. This begins by making the most out of prevention and wellness programs for our children, those who embody the future vision we have as Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai people.

The big questions remain. What can we do differently, right now, to meet the goal of stopping disease before it starts? How can we enhance our work on preventative care for our children? How can we better understand and implement early engagement for healthier lifestyles of our people? And, how can we change the paradigm in our community from one of dissatisfaction and doubt (because of a long history of health care failure) to one of confidence and belief in what we can offer at Tribal Health?

It is why we continue to work on integrating our services, truly using Tribal Health’s rich network of care to offer each person a whole package that treats the whole person.

When we can work with a kindergarten student’s dental needs in the local school, while also integrating education about eating healthier through our Health and Wellness division, while also making sure parents and guardians understand the importance of buckling children up in car seats, in addition to accessing pediatric well-child check-ups and immunizations, we are off to a good start of helping that young person trust and hold confidence in their Tribal Health care.

Because at the end of the day, it is each person’s responsibility and their choice to strive for healthful living. Our vision is that as we continue to develop our own system of health care delivery and as we perfect our rich network of care at Tribal Health, that when it comes to needing health care services, our tribal community will turn to their Tribal Health.

By continuing our efforts, working with other like-minded organizations, leaders, and even learning and developing with other tribes across the nation, we will all begin to prevail from the systemic failures that we have endured for generations. We are the People of Vision.

And we are your Tribal Health. Here’s to the future.

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