Public health researchers at the University of Arizona, along with researchers at two other higher education institutions in the state, have earned a $6 million grant to investigate health issues in American Indian communities.
The National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities awarded the five-year grant to a statewide team of researchers from the UA, Northern Arizona University and Diné College to establish the Center for American Indian Resilience, also known as CAIR.
The collaborative team will study why some American Indian communities facing high rates of chronic disease and poverty seem to thrive despite adversity.
“The basic practice of public health is about understanding ways to support healthy behaviors, and we know programs that are culturally relevant are more effective,” said Nicolette Teufel-Shone, professor of health promotion sciences at the UA’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
“We will take a look at existing health behaviors and programs that target the prevention of chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, to determine what is working and why,” Teufel-Shone said.
Teufel-Shone and Priscilla Sanderson, assistant professor of health sciences and applied indigenous studies at NAU, have been named CAIR’s co-directors. Diné College faculty on the project are Mark Bauer and Donald Robinson, both of the department of science education.
The UA public health college received $2 million of the CAIR grant, which includes collaborations with tribal communities and research projects.
“CAIR research will deepen our scientific knowledge of existing positive health outcomes in tribal communities, and then we will translate this knowledge to practice through public health education and policy,” said Sanderson, a member of the Navajo Nation.
Also under the grant, the UA public health college will collaborate with NAU and Diné College to support Diné College’s ongoing summer program to teach undergraduate students to consider and incorporate community strengths in their work as emerging public health professionals. The program combines classroom learning with hands-on experience through an internship in tribal communities.
The research project, directed by the UA, also involves a partnership with the Tucson Indian Center to interview elders about their concept of resilience and their perceptions of key factors that contribute to success in life.
Through this initiative, members of the Southwestern American Indian community will record video diaries to share their experiences of well-being.
“The goal of the video diaries project is to use existing information about which factors contribute to Native American resilience and spread this knowledge to other Native American communities,” Teufel-Shone said. “This way, researchers can learn lessons of how resilience is already effective in these communities, share experiences and allow community members to create new paths based on other people’s stories.”
Other UA College of Public Health participants include John Ehiri, director and professor; Division of Health Promotion Sciences; Agnes Attakai, director, Health Disparities Outreach and Prevention Education; Kerstin Reinschmidt, assistant professor, Health Promotion Sciences; and Rebecca Drummond, program director for Family Wellness.
NAU faculty and staff contributing to CAIR include Olivia Trujillo, professor of applied indigenous studies; Robert Trotter, Regents’ professor and chair of anthropology; Chad Hamill, assistant professor of music; Roger Bounds, associate professor and chair of health sciences; Lisa Hardy, assistant professor of anthropology; R. Cruz Begay, professor of health sciences; and Kelly Laurila, coordinator in anthropology. Paul Dutton, director of NAU’s Interdisciplinary Health Policy Institute, will facilitate the executive advisory board.
Diné College faculty on the project are Mark Bauer, PhD and Donald Robinson, PhD of the Department of Science Education.