PRC Conference showcases American Indian Healthy Eating Project

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The Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) will showcase three projects at the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Annual Conference this week.  The theme of this year’s collaborative conference is The Changing Face of Public Health Research and Practice.

At the conference, HPDP will interact with the 37 PRCs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), other federal agencies, state, tribal, and local health departments, universities, and community advocates.  Each year, these interactions foster collaborations, make possible dissemination, enhance the role of prevention research, and showcase community-based participatory research.  The HPDP projects featured will be:

  • The HOPE Projects- HPDP overview and Core Research Projects, Marci Campbell (PI), Salli Benedict and Katie Barnes
  • Moving Evidence into Action: The Comprehensive Cancer Control Collaborative of North Carolina, Ashley Leighton, Student research assistant
  • The American Indian Healthy Eating Project, Sheila Fleischhacker, PhD, JD

PRC program staff selected one project from each PRC to give an oral presentation at the conference. The American Indian Healthy Eating Project, an innovative public health, planning, and policy project aims to accelerate solution-oriented strategies for tribal-level action to help address American Indian diet-related health disparities will represent HPDP. 

Using community-based participatory research, the project’s partnership building process began with the NC Commission of Indian Affairs (CIA)—a state entity established by law to deal fairly and effectively with Indian Affairs, amongst other statutory duties.  To build collaborations with each of NC’s Tribes, the CIA suggested using Talking Circles.  Informed by American Indian tradition, the research team worked with community liasions and advisors to develop a modified Talking Circle to facilitate collective discussion and build collaborations with tribal leaders. 

Seven tribes invited the research team to hold modified Talking Circles: Coharie Tribe, Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe, Lumbee Tribe, Occaneechi Band of Saponi Nation, Meherrin Indian Tribe, Sappony, and Waccamaw Siouan Tribe.  This technique was effective at building seven distinct partnerships to explore healthy eating within American Indian communities and one collective American Indian Healthy Eating Initiative in North Carolina.  Community liasions garnered additional community insights and support through 40 one-on-one interviews with community and spiritual leaders, health professionals, Indian educators, food sector professionals, and parents.

Lessons learned from the Talking Circles and interviews helped shape the partnership’s building process and guided the development of “Tools for Healthy Tribes”, a policy toolkit featuring technical assistance and tools to facilitate tribally-led ways to advance American Indian health.  The kit includes a rigorous food assessment of each tribe’s food environment and a systematic website review of the health-related policies and programs existing at the tribal level of  more than 500 American Indian Tribes and Urban Organizations. 

Each toolkit integrated Native traditions to provide research on and recommendations for moving forward tribally initiated and implemented healthy eating initiatives.  Policy options common to all toolkits were tribally-owned and operated community gardens and farmers’ markets, along with incorporating youth and elder programs to pass down traditional food preparation and preservation methods.  Additional technical assistance was provided on how to prioritize policies and programs, as well as successfully implement changes at the tribal level, pulling together resources available at the federal, state, county, local, university, and food retailer levels. 

Throughout April and May, each Tribal Council member will receive a toolkit and each of the participating tribes will each have a technical assistance session to assist tribes in developing, implementing, and evaluating community changes around healthy eating. 

Eric “Raven” Locklear, M.Ed, member of the Lumbee Tribe and tribal liaison for the project said the research has shown him a different side of tribal life.

“My eyes have been opened to disparities and opportunities within our tribal environments here in North Carolina,” said Locklear. “I have shared with high school students intending to study fields of nutrition or medicine the impetus of the  initiative and have predicted that in their professional lives they will have opportunity to further the body of study that we are so fortunate to have begun. Generations will be strengthened by this work.”

“The American Indian Healthy Eating Project has been blessed to build partnerships with the NC Commission of Indian Affairs, seven tribes in North Carolina, and with all the tribal leaders, liaisons, and advisors who have given so much of their time and thoughts to facilitate united approaches to advancing American Indian health within their tribes, across the state, and throughout Indian country,” said Sheila Fleischhacker, who led the multidisciplinary research team as part of her postdoctoral studies at UNC Chapel Hill. “The team was also instrumental to changing the face of traditional public health research and practice through an innovative public health, planning, and policy approach.  The Tribes are mobilizing for future projects and endeavors to further community change around healthy eating and active living.”

As one example, the Haliwa-Saponi will be opening their farmer’s market in May and has been working with the American Indian Center and HPDP to explore grant opportunities to implement community foods project in their tribal community. 

As the First Lady Michelle Obama plans this month to launch her special initiative, Let’s Move in Indian Country!, HPDP is excited to showcase its innovative American Indian prevention research at this year’s PRC conference and to continue to collaborate with tribes and urban Indian organizations on community-based approaches to advance American Indian health.

Special thanks to:

Tribal Liaisons
Tabatha Brewer, Coharie Tribe
Al Richardson, Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe
Marty Richardson, Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe
Karen Harley, Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe
Candice Collins, Lumbee Tribe
Eric “Raven” Locklear, M.Ed., Lumbee Tribe
Devonna Mountain, Meherrin Indian Tribe
Dr. Aaron Winton, Meherrin Indian Tribe
Chief Thomas Lewis, Meherrin Indian Tribe
Vivette Jeffries-Logan, Occaneechi Band of Saponi Nation
Tony Hayes, Occaneechi Band of Saponi Nation
Dorothy Crowe, Sappony
Julia Phipps, Sappony
Sandra Bronner, Waccamaw Siouan
Brenda Moore, Waccamaw Siouan

Community Liaisons
Sherry Brooks, MSW, member of the Lumbee Tribe
Randi Byrd, BA, member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee
Ashley McPhail, BS, member of the Lumbee Tribe
John Scott-Richardson, BA, member of the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe

Community Partners & Advisors
NC Commission of Indian Affairs (Gregory Richardson, Missy Brayboy, and Dr. Robin Cummings)
NC American Indian Health Board
Native American Interfaith Ministries (Tony V. Locklear, Executive Director)
American Indian Center at the University of North Carolina (Specifically Randi Byrd and Dr. Clara Sue Kidwell)

Multidisciplinary Research Team
Alice Ammerman, DrPH, RD
Ronny Bell, PhD
Kelly Evenson, PhD
Sheila Fleischhacker, PhD, JD, Co-Principal Investigator
Ziya Gizlice, PhD
Alex Lightfoot, EdD
Amy Ries, PhD
Daniel Rodriguez, PhD, Co-Principal Investigator
Maihan Vu, DrPH

Student Contributors
Leticia Brandon, Global Studies major
Ingrid Ann Johnston, BA, 2011 English/Spanish double major
Candice Hardin, BS, 2011 NCSU Biological Sciences major
Shaina Melnick, incoming 2011 Penn State food science major
Gowri Ramachandran, Psychology/Anthropology double major
Puneet Singh, Healthy Policy and Administration major
Dolly Soto, Masters of Regional and Urban Planning Candidate 

Funding

Support for this project was provided by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and a National Institute of Health (NIH) University of North Carolina Interdisciplinary Obesity Training Grant (T 32 MH75854-03).  The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the RWJF or NIH. 

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