Definition of IHS

IHS: The Indian Health Service (IHS), an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for providing federal health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives. The provision of health services to members of federally-recognized tribes grew out of the special government-to-government relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes. This relationship, established in 1787, is based on Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, and has been given form and substance by numerous treaties, laws, Supreme Court decisions, and Executive Orders. The IHS is the principal federal health care provider and health advocate for Indian people, and its goal is to raise their health status to the highest possible level. The IHS provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to 564 federally recognized tribes in 35 states.

Health services are provided directly by the IHS, through tribally contracted and operated health programs, and through services purchased from private providers. The federal system consists of 29 hospitals, 68 health centers, and 41 health stations. In addition, 33 urban Indian health projects provide a variety of health and referral services. All 29 IHS-operated hospitals are accredited by the Joint Commission or certified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Additional information on the IHS is available at and or by contacting the IHS Public Affairs Staff at 301-443-3593.

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