The Indian Health Service (IHS) was transferred from the Department of Interior to the Public Health Service in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1955. At that time, the general health of Indian people substantially lagged behind the rest of the U.S. population. This gap was reflected in mortality rates which were several-fold higher for Indians, or reflected in time; there were decades between the dates when the U.S. population achieved certain lower death rates compared with the dates when similar reductions were achieved by Indians. As a result of preventive health programs, improvements in sanitation, and the development of a number of medical advances, substantial progress has been achieved in improving the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Life expectancy of Indians has increased 20 years between 1940 and 1980. From 1955 through 1982, the death rate for Indian infants dropped by 82 percent. Also, the age-adjusted death rate for tuberculosis decreased from 57.9 per 100,000 population in 1955 to 3.3 in 1983. These and other improvements are summarized in this paper.