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Civil rights activists push for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act following the killing of Tyre Nichols, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he can reach a deal with President Biden on the debt ceiling, and election experts say 2023 could shape voting rights across the country.


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Health Disparities Only Part of Problem for AZ Native Americans


Friday, October 28, 2022   

Between 2020 and 2021, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives saw a two-year decrease in their life expectancy - the biggest drop among demographic groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One Arizona group is working to reverse the trend.

COVID-19 took a big toll on this population, and a more recent CDC report said Native Americans are also more likely to be hospitalized if they get the flu.

In Flagstaff, Shay Brown, a COVID-19 resource nurse with Native Americans for Community Action, said she isn't surprised by the findings.

"A lot of these families are living in multigenerational housing, and many of them do not have running water, don't have electricity," she said. "It's like compounding effects that cause a lot of these infection rates to rise."

While NACA provides medical attention to limit the spread of disease, the group said this issue goes beyond access to health care for the more than 311,000 Arizonans who are Native American. Poverty and lack of basic services on reservations also are factors.

In northern Arizona, NACA is in close proximity to several tribal nations, but the Navajo Reservation is one of the largest in terms of size and population. NACA's interim director, registered nurse Verity Quiroz, said the reservation struggles with insufficient housing and ready access to health-care facilities, which affects the overall health of the community. She said they're still seeing COVID cases.

"Most of the people that are significantly sick are being evaluated and treated in the hospital," she said. "At NACA we do our best to prevent, first of all - and then, for those milder cases, we refer to our COVID resource nurse."

The CDC said about 41% of Native American and Alaskan Native adults are immunized. Public health officials say if health-care providers work to build trust in the communities they serve, it will be easier to teach disease-prevention strategies and fight misinformation.

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