“I Think [Western] Healthcare Fails Them”: Qualitative Perspectives of State-recognized Women Tribal Members on Elders’ Healthcare Access Experiences

Jessica L. Liddell, Amy L. Stiffarm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Elder tribal members are important cultural and spiritual leaders and experts among many American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) cultures. AI/AN Elders play a key role in the maintenance and transmission of traditional cultural knowledge and practices and are highly valued members of AI/AN communities. AI/AN populations face disparities in healthcare outcomes, and the healthcare needs of AI/AN Elders remain an understudied area of research, particularly among tribes in the South and for tribes who do not have federal recognition. Qualitative data was collected through semi-structured interviews among 31 women, all of whom are members of a state-recognized Tribe in the Southern United States. While the interview questions were specific to their own reproductive healthcare experiences, repeated concerns were voiced by the women regarding the health of the Elders in their community. Key findings captured several concerns/barriers regarding Elders’ healthcare experiences including: (a) Language and communication barriers between Elders and healthcare workers; (b) Prior negative experiences with Western medicine; (c) Lasting impacts of educational discrimination; (d) Concerns over self-invalidation; (e) Transportation barriers; and (f) Need for community programs. Issues related to these barriers have resulted in a concern that Elders are not receiving the full benefit of and access to Western healthcare systems. The purpose of this analysis was to highlight the concerns voiced by women tribal members on the health and wellbeing of Elders in their community. Opportunities related to the importance of prioritizing and improving AI/AN Elders’ healthcare experiences and access are also described.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-94
Number of pages25
JournalAmerican Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Leadership
  • Spirituality
  • Humans
  • Health Inequities
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • United States/epidemiology
  • Healthcare Disparities/ethnology
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Culturally Competent Care/ethnology
  • Female
  • Aged
  • Indians, North American
  • Qualitative Research
  • Delivery of Health Care/ethnology
  • Health Status
  • Culture


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