Journey to Wellness in Indian Country

Tribal members of the Lower Sioux Indian Community were frustrated with the lack of cultural awareness when it came to their health care and by a "fragmented" system that made it hard to track native health concerns.

But they had hope that they could create better access to care by opening their own clinic ... and also create employment opportunities beyond casino jobs.

American Indian Cancer Foundation

We speak with Kris Rhodes, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Indian Cancer Foundation, fighting to reverse the high cancer rates among Native Americans.

Courtesy Vince Rock

Remember hearing about doctors making house calls?

People living on the Leech Lake reservation don't always have transportation to get to one of the seven community clinics.  And it's a big place.  Composed of 972 square miles (and a fourth of that is water) and eleven communities spread out over parts of four counties, the tribe found a solution:  don't just bring a doctor to people living in remote areas, bring the entire clinic.

It's not easy to admit you're using drugs.

Especially if you're pregnant.

Nor is getting off drugs, especially if you're pregnant, when "cold turkey" withdrawal can put the unborn baby through withdrawal, too.

That's where the M.O.M.s program on the White Earth Nation comes in: a program to help expecting mothers get off drugs, and support them medically, emotionally, psychologically and culturally.

If you're a Native American or Alaska Native mom, your baby is twice as likely to die before it's first birthday than if you're white.

And your baby is three times as likely to die before it's first birthday.

AICHO

We've learned in recent years that a variety of social and personal ills can be addressed by a couple of strategies: first, meet people where they are (and not where we think they should be) and second, get them into stable housing. 

AICHO (American Indian Community Housing Organization) has been handling the first two since 1993.  But it's only recently that they've added a third ingredient to the mix and it's having a profound impact: art.

Indian Health Service

In and out of Indian country, the expectation is that patients adapt to the way their doctors do things if they want treatment. 

Dr. Ron Shaw is the president of the Association of American Indian Physicians.  He says the new  "cultural humility" paradigm involves respect for and understanding of other cultures - and it also leads to better outcomes for patients.

The Center of American Indian and Minority Health

Growing up, Dr. Alan Johns never even dreamed of going to med school.

He not only went, he was one of the first two Native students to graduate from UMD's medical program in 1972.  And how he shares his passion for educating and recruiting other Native students who, like him, never imagined a future in medicine.

Tony Webster/Flickr

Tribal sovereignty is more than just who is allowed to put a pipeline where.

Included in the right to self-determination and self-governance is the right to protect one's land and environment - and waterways.

But epidemiologist Michael Marmot says the less status you have, the poorer your health will be. It's not a question even of how much money you have, it's the psychological experience of inequality that makes the difference.

SAMHSA/Ad Council

Native American teens experience the highest rate of suicide of any population in the United states, more than double that of the general population, according to the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute. And as is so often the case, alcohol factors into almost 70% of those deaths. 

The Mental Health Week on KUMD was made possible in part by the Human Development Center, Miller-Dwan Foundation and the St. Luke’s Foundation.

Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth

Coming up with innovative ways to get med students involved in rural medicine has been a challenge since doctors quit making house calls.  In Indian Country, however, when disparities between health and health care for tribal people compared to the overall population are so striking, the need to recruit and train primary care doctors for reservations is even more critical.

Photo courtesy Michelle Johnson-Jennings

Through this series, Journey to Wellness in Indian Country, we have focused on various aspects of what has contributed to the health disparities that American Indians face and the culturally-rooted solutions being implemented in tribes across Minnesota and beyond.

Dr.  Michelle Johnson-Jennings says tribal people have had the secret to healthy living all along: the ancestors gave instructions for healthy, happy living in the stories that have been passed down through the generations.

Heidi Ehalt

Through this series, Journey to Wellness in Indian Country, we have focused on various aspects of what has contributed to the health disparities that American Indians face and the culturally-rooted solutions being implemented in tribes across Minnesota and beyond.

   Today we are talking about food. Our guest, The Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman, is one of the most innovative and hottest up and coming chefs in the nation. He is at the head of a movement to introduce indigenous cuisine into modern dining.

An important part of improving health and wellness in indigenous communities is research -- but how do you proceed when researchers have time and time again broken faith with the people they're professing to help?

©Derek Jennings

Many European Americans have a hard time understanding the concept of "historical trauma."

After all, if something happened decades or even hundreds of years ago, it's over; "move on," right?

The Australian Human Rights Commission explains historical trauma as  "the devastating trauma of genocide, loss of culture, and forcible removal from family and communities ... all unresolved and ... a sort of ‘psychological baggage... continuously being acted out and recreated..."

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