NAVAJO NATION (KRQE) – As COVID-19 cases rise again in the Navajo Nation as the omicron variant spreads, a company is finding new ways to get medical supplies to remote and underserved areas. Next week, the Navajo Nation will receive its first drone medicine deliveries, reaching tribal members in need who may not otherwise have access.
“The headlines were, ‘Navajo Nation and Native Americans at Higher Risk.’ And we really got a team together and figured out why the risk was higher,” said Mark Atlan, Founder and CEO of ZappCare. put these scenarios together and connected the dots. Well, it’s because of the lack of access to health care.
Atlan is a member of the Apache Nation and grew up in Gallup. He is now behind the mobile medical startup, ZappCare, with a founding team of fellow Native Americans.
“We’re starting with a digital health platform, so a telehealth platform,” Atlan said. “Then vans, trucks, trailers. They will be equipped with doctors, nurses and medical equipment to do eye exams and emergency care.
They are working to provide this basic preventative care to the Navajo people, hoping to eventually expand services like dentistry and cardiology. Now they’re even launching a drone service that will bring much-needed emergency medicine and supplies to people in remote parts of the Navajo Nation.
“Particularly during the harsh winter months, we will provide pharmaceuticals, medications such as insulin, blood pressure medication, to people who cannot get out of their driveway or are in super rural areas. “, said Atlan. “Maybe emergency kits, maybe food, maybe water.”
Throughout the process, the ZappCare team worked with Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer. He calls the idea “out of the box”. “In a pandemic, there are so many needs,” Lizer said. “This health pandemic has really hit Indian country so hard.”
Lizer hopes others will also bring their innovative ideas to the Nation. In turn, he hopes they can also strengthen his economy. “I feel there are other opportunities for companies looking to relocate to another region,” Lizer said. “I really think it’s a great opportunity.”
ZappCare says they also plan to invest in communities, hire Indigenous employees, and provide education and training for CDL and even drone piloting. Eventually, Atlan hopes to expand to communities beyond the Southwest, keeping in mind the traditions and practices of the people they serve.
“It was really developed specifically for rural areas, Native Americans, and starting with the Navajo Nation because that’s their home,” Atlan said. “Culture-based health care, where our physicians understand the communities in which they operate.”
As ZappCare begins to serve the Navajo Nation, they hope to eventually serve all 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States. The drone program, called Mission Healing Eagle Feather, will officially launch on January 22.