Californian Native Americans are not receiving the vital prenatal care they need. The studies done by the California Department of Public Health show that not only do pregnant Native Americans get less care than other Americans, but Native Americans as a whole don’t get the same access to care as the rest of the country. Without more government action, many who are reliant on federal funding will not be able to have safe and healthy pregnancies.
Journalists for the USC Center for Health Journalism News Collaborative interviewed Native American women on their experiences with prenatal care. One of the women, Sylvia Valenzuela, stated that she relied on the federal Indian Health Service system to get the medical attention she needed. Like many Native Americans in the country, she relies on this service because medical care is harder for her to get. Her experiences were disturbing, and it’s even more unsettling to know that she isn’t an isolated case.
Federal shutdown creates health center crisis for Native Americans in California - https://t.co/jcl8xOHfKL— PETTIGREWFQHC (@PETTIGREWFQHC) January 24, 2019
Despite relying on the service, Valenzuela was left alone when she needed prenatal care. She struggled to obtain medical coverage for her OB-GYN visits, and she was left uninsured during the critical stretch of her pregnancy. Unfortunately, if she was an average Californian woman, she would’ve had a better experience than being denied vital prenatal care.
The effects of these hardships pregnant Native American women face show when you look at the numbers. The Native American infant mortality rate in California has remained high, while the overall infant mortality rate in the state has been steadily declining since 2005. This shows that Native Americans are not benefitting equally from all the social and medical advances in the services of Californian hospitals and clinics.
Thankfully, the state is attempting to solve the issue. The state is providing more grants to help counties improve their prenatal care for Native Americans. This is a good move because even if they get special federal health coverage, they still experience difficulties navigating a historically underfunded local health system. Other local projects like the Fresno American Indian Health Project are helping with funding by covering referrals for out-of-state Native Americans. With more attention to the issue, people are sure to mobilize to help fix it.