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Project Links Native Americans to Medical Information

Photos by Kathleen Cravedi

On the Front Page...

Computers and the Internet — they're everywhere, right?

Unfortunately, no. Some people have been left out of the digital revolution — the poor, the elderly, rural populations and minorities such as Native Americans. But for one Indian community just miles from NIH, they're right in the middle of the action.

Recently, the NIH Office of the Director and the National Library of Medicine installed and dedicated a fully equipped computer laboratory with eight computers and high-speed Internet access in the American Indian Cultural Center in Waldorf, Md. The federal commitment includes all hardware, software, Internet connectivity and training.

Continued...

Dr. Donald Lindberg, director of NLM, noted that this is the latest in a series of projects sponsored by the library to connect underserved populations to health information on the World Wide Web. "We have an extensive Tribal Connections Program in the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska," he explained, "but it is especially gratifying to help those in need just a few miles from NIH."

Acting NIH deputy director Dr. Yvonne Maddox and NLM director Dr. Donald Lindberg (r) join tribal leader Maurice Proctor at the dedication ceremony for the new computer facility in Waldorf.

About 8,000 members of the Piscataway Indian Tribe live in southern Maryland. Health problems of the population include high blood pressure and diabetes. "NIH has created a number of web sites with a wealth of good consumer health information," said Dr. Yvonne Maddox, acting NIH deputy director and a driving force behind the computer lab at Waldorf. "This facility is an important step in reducing health disparities and in improving the health status of an at-risk population by providing information."

Mike Miller, president of the Maryland Senate, the school superintendents of Charles and Prince George's counties, and other dignitaries made congratulatory remarks at the dedication of the "On Eagles' Wings" computer lab. The ceremony featured the richly colored costumes of the Piscataway tribe and a display of their traditional dances.

The American Indian Cultural Center, which also houses a museum and library, serves as a community focal point where local tribespeople of all ages go to learn more about their culture. The new computer facility will serve to provide information not only about health, but also about employment opportunities and other culturally relevant concerns. "Because most Piscataway tribal members do not have home computers, we're delighted that we will now be able to provide them with this community resource and with timely and up-to-date medical information," noted Natalie Proctor, the center's director.

Young men of the Piscataway tribe show off their heritage with traditional costumes.

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