Community Context and Challenges

  • Decades of historic discrimination and trauma have led to cultural identity loss; today fewer than 120 people speak the Chickasaw language.

  • More than 15% of all residents in the region have less than a high school degree, and nearly 85% have less than a college degree.

  • While gaming supports more than 27,900 jobs, 56% of them are filled by nontribal residents, leading critics to point out that it’s unclear who benefits most from casinos; in addition, increased crime, debt, and substance abuse are linked to gaming.

  • Obesity, substance abuse and mental health are serious issues in the 13-county region; 30% of residents are obese and in 2012, 21% of all residents had a mental illness, and nearly 8% report substance abuse.
  • Access to health care is a pressing challenge; a local health facility built to handle 20,000 annual visit reported more than 238,000 patient visits a year, with patients having to wait 30 days for routine appointments.


Community Actions: A First Look

Recognizing the health challenges faced by the 13-region community, the Chickasaw Nation is focused on improving the health of both tribal and non-tribal members.

The Nation has taken great steps to strengthen its economy and reaffirm cultural identity and unity among members. By integrating traditional values of the tribe into policies and programs, the Chickasaw Nation hopes to reconnect members with their heritage and support well-being among all residents.

These baseline reports, created in 2016, reflect our initial observations on select community programs and initiatives to gauge ongoing, as well as newer, efforts to improve community health. Future reports will provide more in-depth insights and analysis into this community's activities.

Going Forward: Questions for Consideration

In the three decades since the ratification of its constitution, the Chickasaw Nation has made tremendous strides in achieving its goals of economic self-determination and restored cultural identity. Yet modern-day challenges persist, affecting the health and well-being of residents in the 13-county region. Some notable challenges are high rates of unemployment; obesity; substance abuse; and mental health issues. The extent to which Chickasaw Nation initiatives are addressing its priority community health concerns requires further examination. Additional surveillance, data and information gathering, analysis, and reporting can examine whether gaps are emerging in priority areas.

We are working with the Chickasaw Nation to acquire tribal-level data and information to support future research considering the following questions:

  • How does the Nation’s economic success and growth influence the well-being of both tribal members and nontribal residents in the 13-county region? What are the challenges or issues with the region’s reliance on gaming as a revenue generator?

  • How is the Nation working with local, state, and federal governments to improve the health and well-being of its members and nontribal residents?

  • How is the Nation collaborating with other populations in the 13-county region to address social, economic, and health challenges, such as substance abuse, obesity, and poverty?

  • To what extent have the Nation’s local programs, including obesity prevention, elder care, and educational initiatives, achieved their goals? Who are they reaching and how?

  • How has the Nation’s efforts—to integrate Chickasaw culture into its business enterprises, community-based programs, and wellness initiatives—affected social, economic, and health outcomes for the tribe’s members?