In the Navajo Nation, nearly 30% of our patients have neither electricity, indoor plumbing, or running water. The unemployment rate is roughly 40%. Reservations struggle with epidemics of drug abuse, alcoholism, mental health disorders, trauma, and poorly managed chronic diseases. The average life expectancy for Native Americans is 20 years less than the national average. Despite this, the Indian Health Service remains woefully under-resourced; the annual average per capita spending for a Native American patient is $1,300 compared to the $7,000 earmarked for the average American prisoner. In addition to these structural hurdles, historical injustices still color patient trust in the medical system.
Despite these obstacles, Native American culture remains ever present and strong; Pinnacle serves a proud people. Unique cultural exchanges happen on a daily basis, ranging from simply addressing an elderly patient as “grandma” or “grandpa”, to witnessing a ceremony performed by a medicine man. Sheep herding accidents are a weekly occurrence, and during the right season, dances are held most weekends. In a country that urbanizes at a rapid rate, it’s refreshing to find a culture rooted to the land.