On May 1, 2017, the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health (JHCAIH), the Native American Father and Families Association (NAFFA), and Casey Family Programs convened a daylong national symposium entitled, Engaging the Strength of Family to Promote Lifelong Health: Lessons from the First Americans at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.
It is a privilege and honor to share the proceedings of this national conference dedicated to exploring effective, family-based approaches to promoting Native American health and well-being. The symposium featured a keynote and closing address, and three panels of experts from across the country. Over 300 people participated in person or via webcast to learn about and share evidence-based practices and reaffirm the need for expanding culturally relevant, family-based programming to overcome health disparities in Native American communities. Our goal in reporting the proceedings is to anchor this conference as a point of departure to move the field forward through continued generation of knowledge, policy, and best practices to improve the health and well-being of Native peoples, and by extension, the planet.
Symposium conclusion and recommendations:
- Acknowledge the historical context underlying the social, behavioral, and mental health challenges that Native American youth, families, and communities face today.
- Act upon the rigorous evidence base that supports early childhood home-visiting and parent training as proven methods to reverse intergenerational stress and trauma.
- Improve systems to screen, detect, and intervene on childhood social, emotional, and behavioral issues as early as possible in the lifespan.
- Create training opportunities for paraprofessional and professional Native health workers to gain expertise in the child development and family systems fields of practice and research.
- Commit to fielding multi-disciplinary teams and approaches that engage communities and that are culturally grounded. Give overwhelming preference to protective factor approaches that affect change.
- Delineate sustainable funding streams, such as Medicaid reimbursement, to support health workers delivering family-based and home-based services.
- Translate research findings into tribal, state, and federal health policies.