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After more than five years community collaboration, researchers at the UNC Office of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention are continuing to fight health disparities in North Carolina American Indian populations.

The program, Healthy Native NC, partners with eight NC tribes and four urban Indian organizations to advance Native health using community-based participatory research.

Officially beginning in 2011, HNNC grew out of the American Indian Healthy Eating project that was started by then post-doctoral fellow at HPDP, Dr. Sheilia Fleischhacker. Over the last several years, HNNC has developed into an impressive CBPR model according HPDP Director, Alice Ammeran, PhD.

“It’s been a great example of how community engagement can foster meaningful community changes while also addressing research gaps and enabling a variety of student training opportunities,” said. Ammerman.

The program also partners with the UNC American Indian Center, and works to create measurable and meaningful community changes to promote healthy eating and active living in Native communities.

One of the project’s main endeavors is a system of community gardens in Sampson and Harnett counties. Rick Oxedine, executive director for the Guildord Native American Association, said the gardens have had a huge impact on his community.

“HNNC has strengthened our partnerships at the community and state level and facilitated participation of both youth and elder members,” Oxedine said.  “It’s been ‘More than a Garden,’ which we titled our digital story about our community garden efforts.”

Recently, the program published a report showcasing their work across the state. Amy Locklear Hertel, director of the American Indian Center, said she’s excited about the report’s publication.

“We are excited to release our report that showcases more than five years of collaborative work at the local and state levels.,” Locklear Hertel said. “The report also highlights all the assets the participating tribes and organizations have leveraged and developed through HNNC.”

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