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UA Part of $6M research of American Indian Health

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.

technical education career training looking at petri dish

Arizona Students Awarded United Health Scholarships

Six Arizona students have been awarded a scholarship from United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative to pursue a career in health care. The students  joined future health leaders from across the country in Washington, D.C. for the United Health Foundation’s Fifth Annual Diverse Scholars Forum.

Kaitlyn Benally of Tuba City is a sophomore at Northern Arizona University studying biomedical sciences, with the goal of educating people about the risks associated with diabetes.

“I hope to make a difference as a member of the future health workforce by working with children and their parents to help them understand the benefits of healthy living,” she said. “Diabetes is a growing health concern on the reservation. I will educate people about the risks and show them ways to improve their lifestyle to become healthier.”

Another scholarship winner, Cecilia Espinoza of El Mirage, is studying nursing at Grand Canyon University. After watching her father pass away from cancer, she decided to pursue a career as an oncology nurse.

Other Arizona scholarship recipients, and their areas of study, include:

* Regis Maloney of Tonalea, Environmental Health at Dine College
* Jeffrey Sleppy of Chinle, Biology at Dine College
* Lorenza Villegas-Murphy of Litchfield Park, Nursing at Arizona State University
* Mycolette Anderson of Lukachukai, Nursing at Dine College

United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative, through its partner organizations, awarded $1.2 million in scholarships in the 2012-2013 school year to 200 students from diverse, multicultural backgrounds, with nearly $2 million in scholarships announced for 2013-2014. This is part of the foundation’s ongoing commitment to build a more diverse health care workforce.

By the end of 2013, United Health Foundation will have awarded $10 million in scholarships to diverse students pursing health careers. Nearly 70 scholarships have been awarded in Arizona since 2007.

“We know patients do best when they are treated by people who understand their language and culture,” said Kate Rubin, president, United Health Foundation. “United Health Foundation is grateful for the opportunity to support these outstanding students who are demonstrating impressive purpose and passion and who will help lead the way to better health access and outcomes.”

United Health Foundation made the announcement at its fifth annual Diverse Scholars Forum, which brings more than 60scholarship recipients to Washington, D.C., July 24-26 to celebrate the scholars and inspire them to work toward strengthening the nation’s health care system. This year’s event gives these future health care professionals the opportunity to meet and interact with members of Congress and leaders from a variety of health care fields.

According to the American Medical Association and Association of American Medical Colleges, the number of multicultural health professionals is disproportionately low when compared to the overall population. For example, while about 15 percent of the U.S. population is Hispanic/Latino, only 5 percent of physicians and 4 percent of registered nurses are Hispanic/Latino. About 12 percent of the population is African American, yet only 6 percent of physicians and 5 percent of registered nurses are African American.

Given the changing demographics in the United States and the volumes of people entering the health care system due to the Affordable Care Act, there is an even greater need for a more diverse health care workforce.

Research shows that when patients are treated by health professionals who share their language, culture and ethnicity, they are more likely to accept and adopt the medical treatment they receive1. Increasing the diversity of health care providers will reduce the shortage of medical professionals in underserved areas, reduce inequities in academic medicine and address variables – such as language barriers – that make it difficult for patients to navigate the health care system.

“We are pleased to support these exceptional students in their efforts to achieve their educational goals and work to improve our health care system,” said Rubin. “The Diverse Scholars Initiative helps these scholars fund their education, and gives them an opportunity to learn from one another and interact with experts who are leading the way in improving patient care.”

United Health Foundation’s Diverse Scholars Initiative is one facet of the foundation’s commitment to build and strengthen the health workforce. United Health Foundation supports additional programs like STEMPREP, which aims to produce the next generation of researchers in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical fields. The foundation also supports A.T. Still University’s Connect the Docs Graduate Loanship Program that provides loan repayments to four qualifying graduates who secure jobs in community health centers.

For more information about the Diverse Scholars Initiative, visit www.unitedhealthfoundation.org/dsi.html.

Sky Ute Casino - AZRE Magazine September/October 2010

Arizona's Indian Tribes Expand Reservation Services

Indian Country construction boasts a variety of projects as Arizona’s Indian tribes expand reservation services

In September 1970, the Gila River Indian Reservation finished the first phase of construction of a $1M career center at Sacaton. It’s taken some time, but since then, much has been built on Indian reservations in Arizona — and the momentum continues.

Casinos, healthcare facilities, government offices and schools have sprung from tribal lands in the past 40 years, and continue to do so. But while casinos remain the largest projects on the reservation, the mix of projects continues to expand.

Take, for instance, the $100M spring training facility for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies being constructed by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, set to open in February 2011. Take note of Scottsdale Pavilions, SRP-MIC’s retail center on Indian Bend Road across the Loop 101. There’s the tribe’s recently opened Talking Stick Resort encompassing a 240,000 SF casino in a 15-story tower that houses almost 500 rooms. And the SRP-MIC’s Scottsdale business park, the Chaparral Business Center.

Projects such as these signal a growing trend among Indian tribes in Arizona of diversifying business development. And it sends a message that construction is still happening on the reservation, despite economic hardships worldwide.

“There are still opportunities there,” compared to the rest of the construction industry, says Matt Richards, project executive for Arviso/Okland Construction JV, which is 51% Navajo owned.

For Indian tribes nationally, “most construction work seems to be still centered around casinos,” Richards says. “What we’re working on, though, is hospitals, schools and government buildings. We’ve done hospitality projects, as well.

“One of the recent trends in our industry for tribal projects has been the multipurpose judicial complexes,” Richards says. “We are fortunate enough to be working with the Navajo Nation on two upcoming judicial complexes, one in Tuba City and another in Crownpoint, N.M. There have been multiple similar projects throughout the region, including the Pueblo of Isleta, the Pascua Yaqui, Colorado River Indian Tribe, and others.

Much of this work has been the result of an ARRA-funded (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) program for the Department of Justice, which allocated money for the construction of tribal jails.”

Kimberly Silentman-Kanuho, coordinator for American Indian Initiatives at Arizona State University’s Del E. Webb School of Construction, sees a broad mixture of projects happening.

“There is so much going on out there,” Silentman-Kanuho says. “There’s transportation — highways, roads and bridges. There’s also community and cultural centers, and health facilities. It’s not just gaming and hospitality-type development; there’s a wide variety of development going on out there.”

However, with the biggest, most expensive projects being casinos, other types of projects don’t get noticed as much.

“I don’t think those types get highlighted like the gaming effort,” Silentman-Kanuho says. “It’s across the board. The Diné College (in Tsaile on the Navajo Reservation) is getting a new library. (Northern Arizona University) is getting a new cultural center.”

Transportation projects are springing up as well, according to Silentman-Kanuho, many funded from ARRA. Those funds have allowed the tribes to finally begin projects that have been on the back burner for years, she says. Recovery.gov reports that at least $55M in Department of Interior grants have been awarded to Arizona tribes so far, not counting many other grant opportunities for tribes.

Convention space and entertainment venues are other directions tribes may be moving toward. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s $120M hotel expansion of Casino Del Sol near Tucson will include a 50,000 SF conference center. The 10-story hotel also has 215 rooms, three restaurants, a lobby lounge, pool, day club, spa and fitness center, a 1,120-space parking garage, and support facilities. In addition, the Casino Del Sol houses a 4,500-seat outdoor concert and entertainment venue.

AZRE Magazine September/October 2010