UIHS Wins National Award (health)

The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) selected the United Indian Health Services (UIHS) Board of Directors for its annual National Indian Health Award.

According to Tyra Baer, Tribal Health Care Reform Project Coordinator for NIHB, this recognition was awarded for the “UIHS Board’s selfless dedication to advancing the health of Native People and tireless contribution towards improving the delivery of health care to north coastal tribes of California.”

UIHS has been recognized for integrating the healing power of culture with modern medicine.

With walking trails to support fitness, the architecture, traditional healers, and the 1½-acre community food garden, UIHS demonstrates the importance of traditional life-style in maintaining a healthy community.

The UIHS Board of Directors, through fund raising activities, is continuing to invest in traditional resources and programs so that UIHS can provide the highest quality health care to over 11,000 people it serves.

Baer thanked the UIHS Board of Directors for its guidance and support for “the integration of cultural healing power with modern medicine” and serving as a healthy role model in the community. She also commended UIHS for its support in advocating health and is “amazed with the low (8 percent) diabetes prevalence rate in the (UIHS) community.”

This prestigious award was presented to the UIHS Board of Directors on Sept. 26 at the 2012 National Indian Health Board Annual Awards Ceremony in Denver.


Don't Get Sick After June (health/community)

For too many Native Americans, the adage “Don’t get sick after June” once applied—because Indian Health Service (IHS) funds sometimes dwindled then—but soon it may be a different story with different outcomes.

For example, Colorado’s two tribal nations can keep IHS health care as it is at present, create a tribal health plan for their members, or craft a hybrid IHS/tribal plan through the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange), slated to open in October 2013. Tribes in other states would also have options.

The possible Native plans and state health exchanges are a part of the federal Affordable Care Act, which is to enable low- and moderate-income individuals and small employers to obtain affordable health coverage. It also permanently authorizes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

The Southern Ute Indian and Ute Mountain Ute Tribes “are exploring their options,” Myung Oak Kim, Exchange communications and outreach specialist, said of the tribes in southwestern Colorado.

Read more: http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/07/27/indian-health-care-choices-widen-through-state-exchanges-125803#ixzz28STgKUoB

Mukleshoot Program (health/community)


Muckleshoot food program fosters creative solutions

Students from Northwest Indian College at the Muckleshoot Tribe learn about traditional salmon preparation and skin tanning during a monthly seminar of the Food Sovereignty Project.

Including traditional foods – like huckleberries, nettles, camas and salmon – into tribal members’ everyday diets is the goal of the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty program. The two year project is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is supported by Northwest Indian College’s Traditional Plants and Foods Program.

“This effort is about eating healthy and remembering who we are and where we come from,” said Valerie Segrest, a traditional foods educator at Northwest Indian College. In addition to a native foods course, the project also includes monthly day-long community seminars covering specific foods, such as deer, berries or salmon. The project also has spawned a native berry garden at the college, an orchard at the Muckleshoot Tribal School and a “cultural landscape” including native plants at the new senior center.

The project was inspired by a joint effort of the Muckleshoot, Suquamish and Tulalip tribes and the Burke Museum to research plants used by tribes.

“The Burke constructed a database of pre-contact foods,” Segrest said. “We interviewed tribal members about how traditional foods make it into their diets. We then asked if tribal members currently had access to traditional foods, and if they didn’t, why not. Our most vital discussion, and where we’re focusing our efforts now, is overcoming those barriers.”

An important aspect of the project is encouraging tribal members to come up with their own solutions.

“It’s easy for people to say that a dietician should just tell people what to eat,” Segrest said. “But when you ask people what they need for better health, and you allow their solutions to come to fruition, there is an incredible response from the community.”

Some of the solutions can come from mixing traditional food with more modern preparation methods.

“We’ve prepared a huckleberry fruit smoothie and elk burgers,” she said. “This is about making it easier to use traditional food sources.”

Learning about traditional foods also puts the natural resources management efforts of the tribe into a new light.

“When we talk about gathering, fishing and hunting, you start to see how important it is to be good co-managers,” Segrest said. “Now you’re also talking about preserving habitat. It’s not just about food in a garden, it’s about the environment, caring for it and making sure traditional foods can thrive.

“Having traditional food available is not just about individual health, it’s about the health of the community,” Segrest said.

Native Suicide Fact Sheet (health)

General Statistics
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that, from 1999 to 2004:  

• The suicide rate for American Indians/Alaska Natives was 10.84 per 100,000, higher than the overall US rate of 10.75. 
• Adults aged 25-29 had the highest rate of suicide in the American Indian/Alaska Native population, 20.67 per 100,000.
• Suicide ranked as the eighth leading cause of death for American Indians/Alaska Natives of all ages.
• Suicide ranked as the second leading cause of death for those from age of 10 to 34.

Native Suicide (health)

Reasons for suicide amplified for Native Americans

All the reasons that put young people at risk of suicide in the country at large are amplified on Indian reservations.

Indian children are more likely to be abused, see their mothers being abused and live in a household where someone is controlled by drugs or alcohol. They have the highest rates of emotional and physical neglect and are more likely to be exposed to trauma.

“The unfortunate and often forgotten reality is that there is an epidemic of violence and harm directed toward this very vulnerable population,” Dolores Subia BigFoot, director of the Indian Country Trauma Center at the University of Oklahoma, testified a before the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs during hearings on the Indian Youth Suicide Prevention Act of 2009.

“American Indian/Alaska Native children and youth experience an increase risk of multiple victimizations,” she said. “Their capacity to function and to regroup before the next emotional or physical assault diminished with each missed opportunity to intervene. These youth often make the decision to take their own lives because they feel a lack of safety in their environment. Our youth are in desperate need of safe homes, safe families and safe communities.”

Safety can be an elusive commodity on isolated, remote reservations where poverty and its offspring — substance abuse and violence — are self-perpetuating.

She said that in states with reservations, an estimated 75 percent of suicides, 80 percent of homicides and 65 percent of motor vehicle deaths among Native Americans involve alcohol. Violent death accounts for 75 percent of all mortality in the second decade of life, BigFoot said.

Poverty is generational and community deep. High unemployment rates are the norm. Good-paying jobs — or the prospects of any employment at all — are often off the reservation. Leaving the reservation means entering an alien culture that may not always be welcoming, and where there are no grandmothers, aunts and cousins to watch your back. About 50 percent of Montana's native population lives in urban areas.

Suicide rates among urban Indian youth are higher even than those on the reservations.

“We don't know what goes on behind closed doors at home,” said Shawn Silbernagel, who is youth coordinator for Planting Seeds of Hope, a suicide prevention program sponsored by the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Association.

“The average Indian child has a lot of adult things, negative adult things, they have to deal with at a very young age,” he said.

Dealing with trauma

Funerals and grief are common to children in tribal cultures where large extended families are essentially the same as the immediate family in the general population, he said.

Teaching children how to deal with the trauma in their lives is the theme of many programs throughout Indian Country aimed at reducing suicides among Native Americans.

The Tribal Leaders Association has one year left on its second three-year grant to bring a comprehensive suicide prevention plan to Montana's seven reservations and the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

“We have eight partnering tribes,” said Stephanie Iron Shooter, manager of the program. “Each tribe has a youth council or committee as a way for kids to address the tribal councils and community.”

Through the “Honoring Your Life Project,” the tribes fashion a grassroots program based on tribal creation stories and philosophies of life and death, she said. Tribal elders play a key role and many of the projects seek to restore the bonds between elders and tribal youth.

Weakening of those bonds and loss of culture and spirituality are among the reasons young people cannot find their way, she said.

Others describe historical and cultural trauma that remains ingrained in the Native American psyche. Colonization and racism and the abrupt end to traditional life still reverberate in new generations, said Clayton Small, a Cheyenne, who works in a nonprofit suicide prevention program.

Generational trauma weighs heaviest on the male population, he said. They commit suicide at a far higher rate than female Native Americans.

“In Indian Country the role of our men has been significantly altered,” Small said. “Then throw in poverty and violence and it descends into drug and alcohol abuse.”

He said one out of three Native American males end up incarcerated at some time during their lives, in part because their cases are brought in the relatively unforgiving federal system. With a criminal record, employment is nearly impossible to find and they suffer the indignity of not being able to support their families, Small said.

“We have to teach kids that they don't have to continue this cycle,” he said. “We have to teach them to cope with the stress and trauma they see every day.”

When Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau last spring initiated her “Schools of Promise” program to transform the state's lowest-performing schools — all of them on Indian Reservations in the eastern half of the state — she looked at what it would take to change failing schools on the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Peck Reservations.

“We learned very quickly that it went far beyond academics,” she said. “There is a lot of trauma in these communities”

OPI in partnership with the tribes, BIA, IHS and the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Association formed a plan to provide “wrap-around” services for schools that include health, mental health and social services needed to keep children alive and in school.

Juneau said a $600,000 grant to implement the program will provide training, coordination and support to “knit services together in a comprehensive, systematic and cohesive system” over the next three years.

Community-based meetings

The state superintendent said the first step will be community-based meetings to get a perspective on the local problem. Much of project will be aimed at teaching students how to help each other.

Changing the climate at schools is another piece of the agenda, said Sara Casey, administrator of OPI's Special Education Division.

“There are a lot of people in our schools working on climate issues in a very big way,” Casey said.

Among those issues are bullying, safety, self-discipline and other behavioral problems.

“We're doing everything we can,” said Karl Rosston, Montana's suicide prevention coordinator.

A 17-year-old Poplar girl has recorded four anti-suicide commercials that will run four times a day on the Fort Peck Reservation for the next year, he said. Soon they will be going statewide.

A “Talk to Youth” training program is available at no cost to schools, he said. It teaches how to question, persuade and refer someone who may be at risk. Another free program, “Signs of Suicide” has been sent to 144 schools statewide. It teaches how to talk to at-risk students.

Last year, Rosston did 43 training programs for a total of 1,500 people, including 440 teachers.

Many of the tribes have worked to provide safe places for at-risk children when home is not a good option.

Fort Belknap has established an emergency home, and shelters have been opened on the Blackfeet Reservation and at Busby in southeastern Montana, said Louise Reyes of BIA Social Services for the Rocky Mountain Region.

When a child who has attempted or is contemplating suicide is referred for additional help, BIA tries to find a foster family specially trained to deal with at-risk children, she said. But foster homes for these children are hard to find.

“If we have to remove a child, we have difficulty placing them,” she said.

Some are referred to New Day Inc. in Billings, a residential therapeutic program.

Resources have always been a stumbling block and are likely to continue to be. But efforts to coordinate anti-suicide programs, end duplication and streamline services, combined with new emphasis on peer-to-peer support, may knock a few obstacles away.

Lorna Thackeray can be reached at 657-1314 or lthackeray@billingsgazette.com

Obesity Bad for Kid's Brain (education/health)

There's a scary new study showing that obesity can hurt kids' brains.

It's not news that obesity is bad for kids. It increases their risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, orthopedic problems and a whole bunch of other health problems. But what this study in the journal Pediatrics is talking about is different: it's talking about effects on the brain.

Researchers looked at 49 adolescents with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome, a consequence of obesity, is the triad of insulin resistance (pre-diabetes or diabetes), high blood pressure and high blood lipids. The researchers compared the adolescents with 62 adolescents who had the same socioeconomic background but didn't have metabolic syndrome.

The kids with metabolic syndrome had more trouble with arithmetic, spelling, attention and mental "flexibility" than the ones who didn't have metabolic syndrome. Even more frightening, the researchers saw actual changes in their brains, in the hippocampus (which plays a crucial role in memory) and the white matter (which passes messages through the brain).

It was only a small study, and not all kids with obesity have metabolic syndrome. But this study is alarming--especially since we don't know if losing weight can make the brain go back to normal. Given that brains are still developing in adolescence, it's very possible that the changes could be permanent.

What else do we need before we take the problem of childhood obesity really seriously? More and more, it is becoming clear that obesity can steal a child's future away.

In another study in the same edition of Pediatrics, German researchers looked at all the risk factors for childhood obesity and calculated which had the largest effects. You know what the two biggest factors were? Parental obesity and media time. If we tackle those two, it would have a bigger effect than getting kids to exercise or eat fruits and vegetables, they say. So as we start out this new school year, let's shut off the television and video games--and parents, when you are buying back-to-school shoes for the kids, pick up a pair of sneakers for yourself.

Let's work together to get our children's future back.
´¯`·.¸. ><((((º>.·´¯`·.¸.·´¯`·.¸><((((º>
·André Cramblit, Operations Director
Northern California Indian Development Council (NCIDC) (http://www.ncidc.org
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