Indigenous health care heroes in Wisconsin are working to address health disparities

·2 min read

Bosho ("hello" in Potawatomi) and migwetch ("thank you") for reading the First Nations Wisconsin newsletter.

Indigenous people face a range of health disparities, but this week, we’re looking at what some Indigenous people in Wisconsin are doing to address that, as highlighted in some of our recent stories.

Experts say representation in health care matters, especially in understanding some cultural nuances.

American Indians and Alaska Natives make up about 1.7% of the U.S. population, but only make up about 0.4% of the physician workforce.

Dr. Amy DeLong, of the Ho-Chunk Nation, defied the odds by rising from poverty to become one of the 3,400 Indigenous physicians in the U.S.

She overcame self-doubt, embraced her Indigenous roots and now is working to reduce and eliminate health inequities in Wisconsin as a member of the governor’s Health Equity Council.

Also from the Ho-Chunk Nation, Capt. James D. Warner was recently commended by the Department of Homeland Security for leading a Coast Guard rescue mission and medical team that saved the lives of hundreds of people during a hurricane in the Bahamas. He plans to eventually return to Wisconsin to serve as a doctor for the Ho-Chunk people.

Heart disease and cancer are among the leading causes of death for Indigenous people and they're more than three times more likely to die from diabetes than white people.

But Potawatomi officials believe they have a plan to address that. It starts with an Indigenous, organic farm on tribal land in Forest County.

The Potawatomi farm provides healthy, Indigenous foods to tribal citizens in an area considered a food desert in northern Wisconsin.

In Milwaukee, my colleague, Sarah Volpenhein, wrote about Lyle Ignace, who is following in his footsteps and helping to grow the Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center in the city “into an all-encompassing resource for Native people.”

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About me

I'm Frank Vaisvilas, a Report For America corps member based at the Green Bay Press-Gazette covering Native American issues in Wisconsin. You can reach me at 920-228-0437 or, or on Twitter at @vaisvilas_frank. Please consider supporting journalism that informs our democracy with a tax-deductible gift to this reporting effort at

This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Wisconsin Native American healthcare workers target health disparities