The Cherokee Nation’s Women, Infants and Children Program Breastfeeding Services staff cut the ribbon at a May 4 open house for the tribe’s new lactation center at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cherokee Nation opens breastfeeding center

Expectant mother Alayna Farris takes a tour of the nursing room during a May 4 open house at the Cherokee Nation’s new Breastfeeding Services Center at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX The breastfeeding room of the Cherokee Nation’s new Breastfeeding Services Center offers a relaxing atmosphere, rocking chair and subdued lighting for nursing mothers. The center is located at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Expectant mother Alayna Farris takes a tour of the nursing room during a May 4 open house at the Cherokee Nation’s new Breastfeeding Services Center at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
05/06/2011 06:45 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Alayna Farris is expecting her first baby this fall. And though she’s months away from meeting her new arrival, she’s already decided to breastfeed her baby.

“(I plan to breastfeed because of) the benefits of the immunities that will be passed on to my baby,” she said. “And just making sure that I’m making the right choices to have a healthy baby.”

The Cherokee Nation Women, Infants and Children Program Breastfeeding Services have been assisting nursing mothers for several years, but now the program has its own site at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah.

The Breastfeeding Services group held an open house May 4 to show new and expecting moms where they can come for services and information such as peer counseling, educational information and expertise of other breastfeeding mothers.

Breastfeeding Services Coordinator Brenda Carter said breastfeeding mothers need all the support they can get, and that’s the purpose of the center.

“We want our breastfeeding moms to feel special,” she said. “They’ve chosen to breastfeed, and we want to make sure they have the support they need. That’s one of the big reasons for people to continue breastfeeding, the support.”

The center has been a longtime dream of WIC Lactation Coordinator Euphemia John, Carter said. “She’s been our lactation coordinator for many years. In the back of her head she always had a special place for moms to come for support, classes and education.”

Support groups are a major aspect of the center, John said.

“That’s what we want to have here,” John said. “Support groups where women can support each other and share all their experiences they have. That helps them learn from each other.”

Farris said she’s always known she wanted to breastfeed her baby, especially since all her aunts breastfed their babies. “I saw how healthy all their babies were.”

She added that the center should be a great resource for new mothers.

“It’s more support,” Farris said. “The more support I can get in all aspects of having a new baby the better.”

John said the center’s atmosphere is a relaxed one, complete with neutral paint on the walls, photos of mothers and their babies and even a nursing room with a rocking chair, ottoman, subdued lighting, mural of a tropical beach on the wall and calming music.

“The subdued lighting is to have moms get comfortable sitting there, and get relaxed and comfortable,” she said.

WIC Nutrition Coordinator Pam Wedding said the mural is intended to relax mothers.

“The mural is another way of relaxing so that moms cannot feel tense,” Wedding said. “That’s counterproductive to the support. It’s a place with a comfortable chair where it doesn’t feel really clinical and medical.”

Farris said the entire center had the desired effect on her.

“It’s very relaxing,” she said. “It’s peaceful in here. It’s somewhere where I want to be.”

But Breastfeeding Services workers aren’t just helping nursing moms, they are also working to break the stigma of breastfeeding created by those who don’t understand the choice.

“It’s not just WIC that we have to educate,” Carter said. “It’s the different departments. And we’re working to do that.”

She said breastfeeding is generational in that it’s passed down in families, but some of the younger generations have ditched the method for bottle-feeding.

“My mom breastfed, but you know, (younger generations) skipped that,” Carter said.

She added that a state law supports breastfeeding mothers, a fact many people don’t realize.

John also said the CN WIC group is working with the Healthy Nation program to possibly create a billboard about breastfeeding to assist in that effort.

“I think when people don’t see it visually out there they’re not going to get used to the idea,” John said. “It has to be out there.”

Carter said the tribe is lucky that CN Medical Director Gloria Grim supports the breastfeeding movement.

“The Cherokee Nation allows its employee who are working mothers the appropriate time and a safe place to support the mother’s choice to breastfeed their baby, which mirrors the government’s guidelines on breastfeeding,” Grim said in an emailed statement. “We continually work to educate expecting mothers on the importance of breastfeeding and the health benefits to their baby. With the new lactation center, we provide mothers with a relaxing environment so they remain committed to breastfeeding their child. We have dedicated space in some Cherokee Nation health centers and hope to implement more in other facilities.” • 918-207-3825


Dietetic Intern
12/01/2016 04:00 PM
Any breakfast is better than no breakfast, but a smart breakfast gives our body energy to get us through the day and help prevent us from overeating when we do eat. Skipping breakfast can lead to missing out on vitamins and minerals that are often not recuperated, which can cause a decline in our health. Many of us run out the door in the morning forgetting breakfast or don’t have time for it. Many people state they’re just not hungry in the morning, so they don’t eat breakfast. While all of us have heard “breakfast is the most important meal of day,” there is some truth to it. Breakfast has benefits to our health and well-being. Eating breakfast kicks the metabolism into gear, and helps maintain weight or even lose weight. When the body is asleep, it goes into hibernation mode, which causes metabolism to slow down to conserve energy stores. Once we wake, we must switch out of the hibernation mode by eating breakfast. Eating breakfast helps us have a healthier diet than if we were to skip it regularly. There is a higher chance of meeting the recommended servings of vitamins and minerals daily for those who consume breakfast. Most breakfast food items tend to be a high source of vitamins and minerals. Cereal is a common breakfast meal, which is high in vitamins and minerals. Some are actually fortified with additional vitamins. We also eat cereal with milk and sometimes fruits, which adds more vitamins and minerals to our breakfast. Milk is a source of protein, too. For those looking to get fiber into their diet or making sure they’re getting enough, you can get it through your breakfast easy. If you normally eat cold cereal, try hot cereal such as oatmeal. Oatmeal provides at least 3-4 grams of fiber per 1 cup cooked. The hot cereal offers great benefits, too, such as lowering cholesterol, and is great for the heart. When building a breakfast, choosing a whole grain, fruits or vegetables and a protein offers all the right nutrients to start the day. Protein-rich foods help us stay full longer and stay focused. When they tell the students at school to eat a good breakfast the week of testing, it is because breakfast improves concentration and helps with alertness. Breakfast enhances our memory, cognitive ability and attention span. All the nutrients that help with brain development, memory and concentration can be achieved by eating breakfast regularly. When we wake up, we are often irritable, restless, drowsy, feeling lethargic and forgetful. Low blood sugar levels typically cause these feelings. Since the body has been fasting while we are sleeping, blood sugars are low first thing in the morning. So, eating first thing whether being hungry or not can help stabilize the blood sugar levels and relieve those feelings. A balanced breakfast can also improve our mood. Some people are grumpy when they are hungry. Adding breakfast first thing can boost your mood and make you happier. Breakfast is important for each person, no matter what lifestyle or health condition. An adequate breakfast can drastically improve our health in a positive direction. However, it is important for children for supporting their growth and development. Pregnant women also have increased nutritional needs, so it is crucial for pregnant women to get a balanced breakfast. Adding a starch during breakfast can also reduce feelings of nausea in the morning. Older adults tend to start eating less at meals, so skipping breakfast can make it hard to meet nutritional needs later in the day. Because some older adults have an increased appetite in the morning, it is a great time to get in an adequate meal especially with taking medications. Those with a busy morning can achieve breakfast on the go. Items such as yogurt, granola bars, pre-made fruit cups with yogurt, instant oatmeal, toast, hard boiled eggs are all things we can either grab on the way out or take a little amount of time. Planning or even preparing breakfast the night before may be easy, too. Don’t let your schedule get in the way of your breakfast. Find what works and watch your health improve.
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
11/22/2016 12:00 PM
BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Dr. Kerri Williams recently graduated with her master’s degree in health administration from Oklahoma State University. Board eligible in emergency medicine, family practice and hospice and palliative care, she isn’t your average doctor. Williams is licensed to treat patients in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, and depending on whom she is contracted with determines what type of medicine she practices. She’s been from Wichita, Kansas, to Idabel to Texas. Working as a traveling doctor gives her the opportunity, she said, to see the different ways doctors practice medicine. “It gives me a lot of freedom to set my schedule, and also gives me a lot of variety and the ability to see how others practice medicine,” she said. Williams said she was fortunate to have been a pharmaceutical representative in the 1980s when a physician took notice of her and encouraged her to become a doctor. “I graduated medical school in 1996 from OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. I mainly went in for my master’s in health care administration to understand the new changes in medicine and understand why administrations made some of the decisions they did, why our government is doing some of the things they did,” she said. “I knew I was behind as far as knowing some of the new laws and methods of coding and billing collections.” Williams said working and understanding the culture of Native people has helped her greatly in her career. “When a Native doesn’t look you in the face that is a sign of respect not disrespect of other cultures. And knowing what gestures mean, what slang means it really is a leg up in this part of the world,” she said. Williams said she hopes to continue to enjoy medicine and suggests that education is the key. “May not like some of the situations, may not like some of the people, but I still love the medicine. As I said before, the political climate has a lot to do with medicine and how it will progress forward,” she said. “I think that you must educate your children and education is everything. I was fortunate to have a role model…you must educate and you must help finance their education.” For the future, Williams said she hopes to possibly open a general practice. “There’s many new practice models, business models out there for medicine now. The political climate has a lot to do with medicine. (The master’s degree) Gives me more depth of knowledge,” she said in regards to when or if she opens a practice.
Staff Writer
11/16/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – More than 100 registered events were set for NB3FIT Day, through the Notah Begay III Foundation, to engage at least 10,000 Native youths across the United States in a minimum of one hour of physical activity on Nov. 13. The Tahlequah-based Nighthawks stickball team hosted one of the events at the Cherokee Nation Male Seminary Recreation Center by inviting local Native youths to participate in stickball activities. The foundation’s platform is to “engage tribes, organizations, business, communities and families in promoting physical activity, nutrition and healthy-lifeways among Native youth,” according to a Notah Begay III Foundation release. According to the foundation’s website, 45 percent of 2- to 5-year old Native children are obese. Obesity is the leading factor to type 2 diabetes, and one out of two Native children born since 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes that could reduce a child’s life expectancy by 27 years. The Nighthawks used stickball as a means to get youths out for a day of physical activity by teaching them stickball skills. “It’s important because we’re sharing culture. We’re getting physically fit. There’s language. There’s teamwork, discipline, and it was fun to come together as a community,” Carla Feathers, Nighthawks coach and event coordinator, said. Feathers also said the Nighthawks wanted to use NB3FIT Day to pass on the game of stickball. Twenty youths, representing several tribes, and ages ranging 4 years old to 18 years old participated in warm-up exercises, drills and games. “I’m so excited to see this many kids. I think that they all can gain some knowledge, especially the way they’ve set up all these drills they’re doing,” Kim Proctor, CN Youth and Family Services specialist, said. “It actually helps them build their skills for this traditional game that we have. And I think that if they continue to come that they’ll grow up learning and continue to play.” Proctor brought her two children, ages 4 and 13, to participate in NB3FIT Day. “We’re able to see our kids play our traditional games and play in a way that our ancestors played. So knowing that my oldest and my youngest know how to play and are out here playing with other children is really important,” Proctor said. Aside from knowledge about the significance of physical activity, each participant received an N7 Nike T-shirt, a drawstring bag and water bottle. The Notah Begay III Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to countering childhood obesity and diabetes in Native American youth across the country. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
11/02/2016 12:45 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation has screened 23,000 Native American patients for hepatitis C, a year after becoming the first tribe in the nation to launch a hepatitis C elimination project with assistance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, the CN announced its study, Optimizing Care and Setting a Path Towards Elimination of Disease and Disparity, with researchers to prevent and treat the virus. CN Health Services partnered with the CDC, the Oklahoma Department of Health and the University of Oklahoma to help research and track results. The Gilead Foundation donated $1.5 million to help with screening kits and research. The tribe’s goal is to screen 80,000 patients between the ages of 20 and 65 for hepatitis C over three years. During the past year, the tribe has screened 23,000 patients. Of those screened, about 400 new patients tested positive and nearly 300 patients are either being treated for hepatitis C or have been cured. “A year into our program we are seeing a high success rate to screen and treat patients, and our hope is to eliminate this disease entirely within the Cherokee population,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Staying ahead of the rate of infection requires vigilant testing, screening, treatment and creative strategies to prevent future cases. I’m proud that the Cherokee Nation can work on preventative measures to help our people now and in the future.” The CDC is assisting the coalition of public health, clinical care and academic medicine partners in monitoring and evaluating the project. “The Cherokee Nation is demonstrating to other communities across the United States how to effectively test and treat those living with hepatitis C and prevent new infections, so that someday the threat of hepatitis C will be eliminated,” Dr. John Ward, director of CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, said. Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus, usually through the transfer of blood. Most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles, unlicensed tattooing or having a blood transfusion before 1992. For some people, hepatitis C is a short-term illness, but for about 70 percent of people who become infected, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection, according to CDC. “Everything is going very well and progressing, and we’re meeting the goals we set,” CN Director of Infectious Diseases Jorge Mera said. “I’d like our patients to know they can request to be screened by a provider, and, if they have the virus, the Cherokee Nation has a cure.” Mera was honored by the White House earlier this year for demonstrating commitment to viral hepatitis awareness and prevention. Mera said he has worked on training with the Chickasaw Nation and Indian Health Service facility in Oklahoma City. Other tribes that are interested in elimination plans have also reached out in the past year. On Oct. 30, 2015, Baker signed a proclamation declaring Hepatitis C Awareness Day in the Cherokee Nation, and tribal officials want to observe it again this year. For more information about the elimination project or to get screened, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
10/31/2016 12:30 PM
TULSA, Okla. – The Oklahoma Nurses Association recently awarded the Cherokee Nation with its Excellence in the Workplace award. CN Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis, Cooweescoowee Health Center Clinic Administrator Brandi Payton and Ambulatory Care Nurse Manager Brandy Goodwin accepted the award at an Oct. 20 luncheon in Tulsa during the ONA annual convention. “Our health care staff takes great pride in the standard of care we provide at our facilities and through our programs,” Davis said. “The tribe’s health care services have become a standard-bearer for Indian Country, and that is due in large part to the staff’s dedication. This award affirms that commitment to excellence, and I commend our staff for striving to be the best and making our tribe’s health care services the best in Indian Country.” The CN operates the largest tribally operated health care system in the country, with eight health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah. The nine tribal health facilities received more than 1 million patient visits in fiscal year 2015. In addition to the nine health facilities, Health Services provides other services and programs such as Emergency Medical Services, Diabetes Prevention program, Healthy Nation program, Cancer Prevention program, Behavioral Health program, the Jack Brown Center for youth and Cherokee Elder Care. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
10/28/2016 04:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation health officials are giving free flu shots for CN citizens as well as their non-Native family member residing in the home in preparation for the upcoming flu season. According to CN Communications, health officials have dozens of vaccination clinics scheduled this month and next at schools, town halls and health centers throughout the 14-county jurisdiction. “The flu season typically runs September to March, but each year it peaks during different months. The tribe vaccinated more than 50,000 people during last year’s flu season,” the release states. Vaccination clinic dates and locations are subject to change. Visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and click on the public notices section under the quick links tab for frequent updates. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the vaccination schedule.