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Vol. LXIV, No. 2
January 20, 2012

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NIH Hosts American Indian/Alaska Native Workshop

Arthritis patient Dr. Janet Stearns Wyatt (l) presents the NIAMS Coalition’s Congressional Champion Award to Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
Panelists at Reaching Out to Urban Indians: Best Practices in Communications and Partnerships included (from l) Dr. Kristen Nadeau of the University of Colorado-Denver; John Burklow, NIH associate director for communications and public liaison; Wilbur Woodis, HHS Office of Minority Health; D’Shane Barnett of the National Council of Urban Indian Health; Dr. Jami Bartgis, also of NCUIH.

A group of NIH communicators recently hosted a half-day workshop on “Reaching Out to Urban Indians: Best Practices in Communications and Partnerships.”

Sixty-one percent of American Indian/ Alaska Natives live in urban areas; urban Indians are frequently disconnected from reservation-based social networks, health services and spiritual resources. The workshop was organized to help participants appreciate the histories and cultural identities of urban Indians across the country, better understand the health care issues facing them and identify partnership opportunities and best practices for health communications to reach this population.

Keynote speaker D’Shane Barnett (Prairie Chicken clan of the Mandan tribe), executive director of the National Council of Urban Indian Health, described American Indian migration from reservation lands to the cities. Much of this migration was not voluntary, often resulting in a displaced people with little to no resources in their new environment. Barnett discussed health issues facing the urban Indian population, including increased infant mortality rates, heart disease, cancer, deaths due to unintentional injury, chronic liver disease and diabetes.

Barnett also described the challenges inherent in designing national campaigns to reach the more than 567 tribes federally recognized across the United States, each possessing a unique culture and background.

The workshop concluded with recommendations including a need to form partnerships with the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, urban Indian health programs and urban Indian health and community centers. Conferees agreed there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when reaching out to urban Indians; successful efforts will recognize that this is a diverse community with a rich variety of cultures and backgrounds. NIHRecord Icon

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