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Indian Health Service (IHS)

The Indian Health Service (IHS) provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN). IHS serves members of 566 federally recognized Tribes. The IHS mission, in partnership with AI/AN people, is to raise their physical, mental, social, and spiritual health to the highest level. The goal is to ensure that comprehensive, culturally acceptable personal and public health services are available and accessible to all AI/AN people.

The Office of the First Lady's Let's Move! Initiative and four federal agencies, including IHS, launched LMIC at an event at the Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wisconsin on May 25, 2011. LMIC has four main goals: (1) create a healthy start on life for children, (2) create healthy learning communities, (3) ensure families access to healthy, affordable, traditional foods, and (4) increase opportunities for physical activity.

The IHS' initial contribution to LMIC is the IHS Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving This quality improvement initiative is to increase breastfeeding rates, thereby creating a healthy start in life and preventing childhood obesity.

Co-administered by the World Health Organization and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (WHO/UNICEF) initiative, the BFHI requires that hospitals adapt their maternity practices and implement a breastfeeding policy; train all healthcare staff in implementing the policy; help mothers to initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth; practice rooming-in which supports breastfeeding on demand; give no artificial teats or pacifiers to breast feeding infants and give newborns no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated.

  • Goal: The goal of IHS is to designate all IHS OB facilities as Baby Friendly Hospitals by the end of 2014.
  • Outcomes: As of the end of November 2014, all 13 (100%) of the IHS federally operated obstetric hospitals have been designated as Baby-Friendly; Baby-Friendly has become an official standard of care for AI/AN mothers and babies. Nationally, fewer than 10 percent of all U.S. hospitals are Baby-Friendly designated, making IHS a national leader in the Baby-Friendly field.

In November 2014, IHS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Notah Begay III Foundation to collaborate on the prevention of childhood obesity through sharing of data and best practices.

In December 2014, IHS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Nike N7 Fund. This MOU leverages the more than 10 year relationship between IHS and Nike USA Inc. to empower American Indians and Alaska Natives with creative exercise and lifestyle choices as well as encourage participation in sport and physical activity.

In 2014, IHS assumed leadership of the LMIC federal interagency team, hosts regular conference calls of agency staff, and coordinates interagency team events. IHS coordinated the LMIC 3rd Anniversary Celebration in Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico on June 16, 2014 and hosts webinars to showcase best practices in the prevention of childhood obesity from IHS, other federal agencies, and Tribal communities.

IHS has a number of related initiatives to prevent overweight/obesity and related conditions, including the IHS Healthy Weight for Life Initiative, the Special Diabetes Program for Indians and the On the T.R.A.I.L. (Together Raising Awareness for Indian Life) to Diabetes Prevention with the Boys and Girls Club.

Resources & Links:

Indian Health Service (IHS) logo

Agency Grants, Awards, and Resources

  • The BFHI Consultant provides technical assistance to federal OB facilities in implementing the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. OB facilities share successful best practices to support Baby Friendly designation efforts.

Community Partners:

  • IHS will continue to encourage Tribal OB facilities to make similar policy changes and achieve BF Hospital status.
  • Notah Begay III Foundation
  • Special Diabetes Program for Indians
  • Boys and Girls Clubs - T.R.A.I.L. Initiative