7 for 2017: Victories for American Indian Health

Last year, the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health commemorated a quarter century of working to improve the health and well-being of American Indian communities. Our Family Spirit early childhood development program reached is now reaching 79 tribal communities in 16 states. The Arrowhead Café & Marketplace–an initiative run by Apache entrepreneurs trained by our center with Barclays Bank—in historic Fort Apache broke even for the first time. Martin Sheen extolled the importance of NativeVision for young American Indians around the country. We also know more than ever about the importance of the pneumonia vaccine to protect young children in southwestern tribal communities. Here are 7 reasons to be excited about what 2017 holds for American Indian health.

#7 NativeVision and the Tewaaraton Foundation team up to send hundreds of American Indian kids to camp

Martin Sheen cheers us on!

NativeVision partnered with the Tewaaraton Foundation to raise funds for sports, mentoring, and education benefitting American Indian youth. Teams participating in a grassroots CrowdRise campaign include Dartmouth, Georgetown, Duke, George Mason, and the Connecticut Titans to date. You can still join them to support this important campaign!

Inside Lacrosse founder Bob Carpenter interviewed award-winning actor and activist Martin Sheen about NativeVision in this 12-minute podcast. He discusses the value of getting involved with Native communities and the impact it has had on his life. 

#6 Arrowhead Café & Marketplace Emerges as Community Destination in Fort Apache, Arizona

The Arrowhead Café & Marketplace has emerged as a popular destination in Fort Apache, Arizona, home of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. Prickly pear lemonade, zucchini cake, and lattes are popular offerings well reviewed by patrons on TripAdvisor. During the holidays, the Café hosted special events like Santa at the Fort and sold handmade bows and arrows as well as paintings by young Apache artists.

The Café is run by the Arrowhead Business Group, a strengths-based youth entrepreneurship initiative designed to promote positive health, education, and prosperity for Apache youth. It was developed in partnership by the White Mountain Apache Tribe and our Center, with bold financial and in-kind support from Barclays bank. 

#5 New evidence of decline in disease transmission shows impact of pneumonia vaccine, Vaccine helps protect young people and elderly

The pneumococcal vaccine has protected children and families of the Navajo Nation and White Mountain Apache Tribe over the past 15 years. Working together, the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and the White Mountain Apache and Navajo Nation tribal communities gathered valuable new information on the impact of a life-saving vaccine.

The vaccine, known as PCV13 or Prevnar, provides protection against 13 types of pneumococcus bacteria. Infections with this bacteria can lead to life-threatening illness like pneumonia particularly in children and the elderly. A recent study showed that the vaccine eliminates the bacteria from the back of children’s noses, where it can reside without causing symptoms before moving to other people. In this manner, the vaccine limits the spread of the bacteria among members of the community.

#4 Family-centered diabetes program reduces risk factors in young American Indians

One-year findings include improvements in hypertension, BMI, and physical activity

New findings recently published in the Diabetes Educator showed that a family-centered diabetes prevention and management program designed by the Center effectively decreased body mass index and high blood pressure in American Indian adolescents diagnosed or at risk for type 2 diabetes, while decreasing depressive symptoms and promoting quality of life. This study is the first to examine the impact of a home-based intervention on diabetes prevention and management for American Indian youth.

#3 Youth Basketball Camp Delivers Sex Education   

Part of an important national evaluation to prevent teen pregnancy 

Last summer, our White Mountain Apache partners hosted the first of three basketball camps for Respecting the Circle of Life: Mind, Body, and Spirit, a sexual and reproductive health program being delivered and evaluated by our Center as part of a 5-year $4.4 million initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health.

Past evaluations have linked Respecting the Circle of Life to improved knowledge about sexually transmitted infections, increased confidence in ability to correctly use condoms, and improved discussion between youth and their parents or guardians about reproductive health.

Respecting the Circle of Life’s strong findings were recently noted in a story that aired on PRI’s The World

Learn more here

#2 Our home-visiting program, Family Spirit, reached over 79 tribal communities in 16 states

This evidence-based and culturally-infused parenting support program for new mothers and families also expanded to urban St. Louis. See the full list of partners here.

Developed in partnership with the Navajo, White Mountain Apache, and San Carlos Apache tribal communities, Family Spirit addresses intergenerational behavioral health problems, employs local Native paraprofessionals as family health coaches, and is the only evidence-based home-visiting program ever designed for, by, and with American Indian families. It has shown dramatic results on parenting and early child development, as well as maternal depression and substance use, in low-income and marginalized communities.

Watch a stirring 4-minute video about the impact Family Spirit has had on one mother and her children in beautiful Chinle, Arizona

#1 We Celebrated #NODAPL Victory

We rejoiced upon learning that the federal government denied permission for the proposed route of a pipeline that would have threatened to contaminate the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Dr. Kyle Hill, a psychologist, associate faculty member with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, and a National Guard veteran, was an especially impassioned spokesperson. Read about how the Center contributed to the movement here.

We thank you for being a part of these important victories for American Indian health and look forward to working with tribal communities to accomplish even more in 2017.