Global Partners was created in 2008 to improve the health & well-being of the global communities we serve by inspiring volunteerism throughout Gundersen Health System and local communities.
These long-term, sustainable relationships and community-to-community partnerships expand beyond Gundersen Health System’s typical borders. This global health model will improve the overall health of the region, education of the citizens and quality of life for people in our partner communities.
Global Partners-Pine Ridge works to improve healthcare, education and public health on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota with a focus on sustainability. In other words, we want our partnerships to make a long-term impact on the community to empower people to meet their own needs. However, our desire to make a long-term impact is balanced with the need to fill short-term gaps in healthcare provision.
Why Pine Ridge?
Gundersen Health System and Native American leaders in South Dakota mutually selected Pine Ridge Reservation as a Global Partners site. Specifically, a group from the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Health Board (formerly known as the Aberdeen Area) provided Global Partners with an introduction to Pine Ridge leaders and organizations in 2009. Pine Ridge was selected in part because of the health inequalities that exist and the need for medical and specialty services on the reservation, as well as the opportunity to partner with a number of organizations to bring other resources in education and community development.
IHS is the sole healthcare provider on Pine Ridge, however, due to severe underfunding provides less than $2,700 annually in healthcare services per Native American in the United States. Healthcare expenditures for the average American is more than $7,700 annually. There’s a saying on the reservation, “Don’t get sick after June,” because IHS funding often runs out mid-year. Members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe then have to wait several months to get certain services (such as surgical procedures), if they get them at all. In addition, there are a limited number of specialty providers on Pine Ridge, and some specialties don’t exist at all on the reservation.
This shortage of healthcare resources is especially problematic considering:
– the life expectancy for men on Pine Ridge is 48 years; for women, it is 52 years.
– 3 out of every 4 adults are obese or overweight.
– the diabetes rate is 800% higher than the national average.
Who is involved?
Locally, volunteer medical teams led by Gundersen go to Pine Ride to provide medical services. Other partners include the University of Wisconsin (UW)-La Crosse, Western Technical College, Viterbo University, the School District of La Crosse, the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM), Scenic Rivers Area Health Education Center (AHEC), individuals and other community organizations. Our site partners are instrumental in determining the issues that need attention, and include Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) representatives, Indian Health Service (IHS), Pine Ridge Reservation schools, and others.