Native American health needs to be studied (health)

Finding more ways to work with Native Americans to improve their health is the goal of a University of Nebraska Medical Center conference later this month.

Native American health disparities are a major problem, said Shireen Rajaram, director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at the UNMC College of Public Health.

Native Americans have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and other health problems than whites, she said.

A key focus of the conference will be finding more ways to create partnerships with tribal groups on research aimed at reducing health disparities. The conference is a collaboration between UNMC and the Aberdeen Area Tribal Chairman's Health Board, which serves 17 tribes in the region.

Rajaram said it's important to work closely with Native American groups to better understand the culture and what they believe are the biggest health problems, along with causes and solutions.

High rates of diabetes, for example, can stem from a number of causes such as limited availability of fresh fruits and vegetables and limited access to health care.

The conference is scheduled for March 18 at the Scott Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. For more information, call 559-2095.