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Profile: American Indian/Alaska Native

American Indian and Alaska Native
Health Research Advisory Council (HRAC)

In recognition of the relationship the government has with Indian Tribes, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) supports research on improving the health of American Indian and Alaska Natives. The American Indian and Alaska Native Health Research Advisory Council (HRAC), provides research related to the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives

American Indian/Alaska Native Profile

Map of the United States
  1. Aberdeen Area
  2. Alaska Area
  3. Albuquerque Area
  4. Bemidji Area
  5. Billings Area
  6. California Area
  1. Nashville Area
  2. Navajo Area
  3. Oklahoma Area
  4. Phoenix Area
  5. Portland Area
  6. Tucson Area

Overview (Demographics): This racial group includes people having origins in any of the original peoples of North, South America, and Central America, who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. As of 2012, there were an estimated 5.2 million people who were classified as American Indian and Alaska Native alone or American Indian and Alaska Native in combination with one or more other races. This racial group comprises 2 percent of the total U.S. population.

22 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live on reservations or other trust lands. 60 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live in metropolitan areas; this is the lowest metropolitan percentage of any racial group. 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Natives are under the age of 18, which comprises 30 percent of this racial group. The 2010 Census reveals taht 78 percent of the AI/AN live outside of tribal statistical areas.

Currently, there are 566 federally recognized (AI/AN) tribes, and more than 100 state recognized tribes. There are also tribes that are not state or federally recognized. Federally recognized tribes are provided health and educational assistance through a government agency called Indian Health Service (IHS), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The IHS operates a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives. Typically, this urban clientele has less accessibility to hospitals; health clinics or contract health services implanted by the IHS and tribal health programs. Studies on the urban American Indian and Alaska Native population have documented a frequency of poor health and limited health care options for this group.

Since 1972, IHS has embarked upon a series of initiatives to fund health-related activities in off-reservation settings, which will make health care services accessible to urban American Indians and Alaska Natives. Currently, the IHS funds 33 urban Indian health organizations, which operate at sites located in cites throughout the United States. Approximately 600,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives are eligible to utilize this program. The thirty-three programs administer: medical services, dental services, community services, alcohol and drug abuse prevention, education and treatment, AIDS and sexually transmitted disease education and prevention services, mental health services, nutrition education and counseling services, pharmacy services, health education, optometry services, social services, and home health care.

For more information about tribal health issues:
Indian Health Service
National Indian Health Board Exit Disclaimer
Urban Indian Health Institute Exit Disclaimer

Language Fluency: In 2012, 20 percent of American Indians/Alaska Natives spoke a language other than English at home.

Educational Attainment: In 2012, 82 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives alone, age 25 and over have at least a high school diploma, as compared to 92 percent of non-Hispanic Whites. 17 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives age 25 and over have at least a bachelor's degree, in comparison to 33 percent of non-Hispanic Whites. 6 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives have at least an advanced graduate degree (i.e., master's, Ph.D., medical, or law), as compared to 12 percent of the non-Hispanic White population.

Economics: The median household income for American Indian and Alaska Natives is $37,353, as compared to $56,565 for non-Hispanic Whites. 29 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives age 16 and over work in management and professional occupations, in comparison to 40 percent of Whites. Also, 26 percent of this racial group live at the poverty level, as compared to 11.0 percent of non-Hispanic Whites, in 2012.

Insurance Coverage: In 2012, 47.5 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives had private health insurance coverage. 38.1 percent of AI/ANs relied on Medicaid coverage, and 22.6 percent of AI/ANs had no health insurance coverage.

Full Census Reports:

The American Indian and Alaska Native Population: 2010 [PDF | 2.9MB]

The American Community Survey - American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2004 [PDF | 3.5MB]

Census Bureau, 2013. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012 [PDF | 1.1MB]

Health: It is significant to note that American Indians/Alaska Natives frequently contend with issues that prevent them from receiving quality medical care. These issues include cultural barriers, geographic isolation, inadequate sewage disposal, and low income.

Some of the leading diseases and causes of death among AI/AN are heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries (accidents), diabetes, and stroke. American Indians/Alaska Natives also have a high prevalence and risk factors for mental health and suicide, obesity, substance abuse, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), teenage pregnancy, liver disease, and hepatitis.

Other Health Concerns: American Indians and Alaska Natives have an infant death rate 60 percent higher than the rate for Caucasians. AI/ANs are twice as likely to have diabetes as Caucasians. An example is the Pima of Arizona, who have one of the highest diabetes rates in the world. AI/ANs also have disproportionately high death rates from unintentional injuries and suicide. In 2012, the tuberculosis rate for AI/NAs was 6.3, as compared to 0.8 for the White population.

Selected Data by Disease/Condition

Last Modified: 9/3/2014 2:20:00 PM