Journey to Wellness in Indian Country

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..."

Center of American Indian and Minority Health

Native people in Minnesota die, on the average, ten years sooner than all other Minnesotans.

Part of that statistic comes from poverty and limited access to health care.

But the Center for American Indian and Minority Health at UMD is working the problem from both ends: recruiting Native students into careers in medicine so they can return to their communities and provide medical care.

©Derek Jennings

Wellness is more than just an absence of disease.

It's physical and mental health, and as Native people are moving forward in their journey toward that health, they're doing so by looking backwards: back to the cultural and natural landscape that kept them well long before the time of frybread.

Center of American Indian and Minority Health

Health care for Native people isn't a handout - or even optional, for that matter.  Treaty rights guaranteed health care for Native people ... but the Indian Health Service is chronically underfunded.

Dr. Mary Owen, the director of UMD's Center of American Indian and Minority Health says teaching aspiring doctors about health care disparities in Indian Country needs to be part of the national curriculum.  And even if they don't go on to practice medicine on reservations, they will be positioned to advocate for policy changes.

Dr. Melissa Walls

When Mike Connor agreed to conduct some interviews with doctors, families and people who have diabetes in the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, he knew the information he was helping to gather for the University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth was going to be important.

So many people on the reservation near Nett Lake have diabetes that it's one of the things ambulance drivers are required to ask about when they arrive to help someone.

But he didn't expect the "side effects" of the research: helping people with diabetes feel less isolated and alone.

Photo courtesy Laura Lhokta

Laura Lhokta was raised on the White Earth Nation in northwestern Minnesota, and she's looking forward to going back when she completes her schooling.

Laura is a medical student at UMD who plans to go home to her tribal community after she graduates.

She talks of the family and friends she has cheering her on back home, but admits it's not that way for every kid on the reservation.

©Stacy Rasmus Photo used with the permission of Billy Charles and Lawrence Edmunds

The University of Minnesota is looking for nationally-recognized researchers and leaders in their field to head four teams focused on solving health issues important to Minnesota and the nation.

It plans to create four Medical Discovery teams, recruiting prominent researchers in four areas of medical discovery.

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