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


Staff Writer
10/21/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Diabetes Prevention Program recently introduced its Healthy Native program to promote diabetes prevention. Healthy Native consists of yearlong classes held once a week at two locations. Classes began on Sept. 27 at the Male Seminary Recreation Center in Tahlequah and on Oct. 10 at the Vinita Health Center. Around 30 participants for both locations were selected based on a diagnosis of pre-diabetes and a previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes. “So the goal for our participants is to lose 5 to 9 percent of their body weight, and then they are also given a nutritional goal,” Tonya Wapskineh, DPP coordinator, said. “So, we track fat grams where they would be given a fat gram goal to stay under.” The program uses curriculum to learn about nutrition, physical activity and behavioral health taught by health educators and use tools such as weight scales, measuring cups, portion containers, a wrist pedometer and a “keeping track” book to help them stay conscious of food intake and physical activity. “Food journaling is the number one tool when it comes to any kind of weight loss or nutritional changes. If you’re going to eat better, then food journaling is the way to go,” Wapskineh said. “And that’s what we’ve seen with our past participants. The people that have kept their food journals they have been the most successful.” The DPP started similar prevention classes in 2006. “We still have participants in our program that...have been in that pre-diabetes range for the past 10 years that are still in our program and still have been able to prevent diabetes. We see that as a huge, huge success right there,” Wapskineh said. One of those participants is Jerry Snell, CN Family Assistance director. He said it made him “more knowledgeable of diabetes.” “I had a great time in it. It was one of those programs that became a challenge,” Snell said. “I know it was a pre-diabetes program and, of course, we all know how devastating diabetes can be. I know we’ve all had family members or friends or someone that has fought diabetes.” For the new program, the DPP is working in conjunction with CN Healthy Nation and is funded through an Indian Health Services diabetes grant. Wapskineh said the DPP was recently accepted to apply for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Recognition program. With the newly implemented Healthy Native program, DPP officials hope to keep track of collected data and use it to eventually be recognized as a national diabetes program by September 2018. “You kind of have to go through an acceptance to apply for this and then once you’re accepted then it takes two years of providing CDC information that shows them that you are really using the curriculum, that you’re working with participants, you’re having results,” Wapskineh said. She said the CN is doing what it can for diabetes prevention but currently more money goes towards diabetes treatment. “If we could move to prevention it would be so much more powerful and more cost efficient.” For more information, call Wapskineh at 918-453-5776 or email at <a href="mailto:"></a>.
10/12/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation health officials are offering free flu vaccinations for CN citizens and their non-Native family members living in the household to prepare for flu season. Health officials have dozens of vaccination clinics scheduled this month and next at schools, town halls and health centers throughout the 14-county jurisdiction. For the CN’s flu vaccination schedule, click <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. 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 the previous flu season. 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.
10/06/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The National Indian Health Board in September honored the Cherokee Nation’s Public Health senior director, Lisa Pivec, with an area impact award. The NIHB honored Pivec for advancing American Indian health in Indian Country during an awards dinner Sept. 21 in Scottsdale, Arizona. Under Pivec’s leadership, the CN Public Health office in August became the first tribe in the country to receive accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board. Fewer than 200 public health agencies nationally have earned the title in the past five years. “The opportunity to serve, contribute and be part of my community is an honor. Receiving this award from those I respect across Indian Country fills me with gratitude and hope,” Pivec said. “There are so many heroes working across the country, giving back to ensure we remain a thriving and powerful sovereign Nation for centuries to come. Cherokee Nation is my home, my family, and I am grateful to those who have walked before to pave the way. My grandparents and mother provided a foundation for me to contribute to, and I hope we can all see our role in serving our great Nation.” Pivec, a CN citizen, has worked for the CN for more than 25 years. “Pivec and her team at Healthy Nation, the Cherokee Nation’s Public Health arm, are now the first accredited tribal public health department,” NIHB officials said in a statement. “This task is no small accomplishment and represents thousands of hours of work, coordination and no small amount of perseverance. Pivec’s hard work and dedication to public health accreditation is leading the way for Oklahoma and all of Indian Country.” The tribe’s Public Health department has worked on initiatives such as Zika Virus preparedness planning, launching community walking groups, funding school community gardens, implementing a cancer tumor registry database and conducting research with universities on things such as triggers for childhood asthma. CN Public Health also sponsors 5K races and operates a gym with certified public health trainers for CN citizens and employees for free to promote a healthier lifestyle. “Our investments in public health are an investment in the future of the Cherokee Nation, and no issue has been more important under (Principal) Chief Bill John Baker’s administration than quality health care for Cherokee people,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “The tribe and our citizens are fortunate that we have talented and dedicated professionals like Lisa Pivec who continue to push that mission and create programs that are second to none.”
09/29/2016 09:25 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Claremore Indian Hospital officials want you to become a Kung Flu fighter as they start their “Flu Fighter” campaign on Oct. 3 at the hospital located at 101 S. Moore Ave. David Bales, Claremore Indian Hospital safety officer, said American Indians and Alaskan Natives are more likely than any other group in the general United States population to get sicker from the flu, be hospitalized and die from flu-related complications. He said he is advising people to get the influenza vaccine and that it’s safe and people cannot get the flu from vaccine. In the meantime, he said, people can help prevent getting or spreading the flu or colds by covering their mouths and noses when they sneeze or cough, washing their hands often, staying home if they are sick and not eating or drinking after people who are sick. For more information, call us at 918-342-6679 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
09/27/2016 08:15 AM
<strong>This is Part 1 of a multiple-part series about the opioid epidemic.</strong> TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The United States is undergoing an opioid epidemic, and Oklahoma is near the top of a nationwide list for drug-poisoning deaths. Cherokee Nation’s Behavioral Health defines an opioid as an umbrella term for a natural or synthetic drug derived from or related to the opium poppy plant. Opioids attach to receptors in the central nervous system reducing pain signals to the brain. According to, a website provided by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, in 2012 Oklahoma had the fifth-highest unintentional poisoning death rate in the nation (18.6 deaths per 100,000 population). Prescription painkillers were involved in nine out of 10 prescription drug-related deaths, with 460 opioid-involved deaths in 2012 alone. Anyone can be at risk of overdose if prescription drugs are not taken as directed and with a valid prescription, said Sam Bradshaw, CN Prevention “Partnership for Success” Project director, who is with a Behavioral Health group working against prescription drug abuse. Adults aged 35-54 had the highest death rate of any age group for prescription- and nonprescription-related overdoses, and men are more likely to die of an opioid-related overdose than women, according to “It’s a national epidemic. I think it’s really important to share that. It’s not just in northeast Oklahoma or a Cherokee problem. This is a national problem that is affecting our state and our 14-county Cherokee Nation service area,” Bradshaw said. He said when prescription drug abuse prevention is discussed, people in his field talk about opioids. Opioids are painkillers, and Bradshaw said many people live with chronic pain and need the painkillers. Commonly used opioids are oxycodone, morphine, codeine, heroin, fentanyl, methadone, opium Demerol, Percocet, Lortab and hydrocodone. “Now, there’s a whole bunch of different ones, but the most prescribed opioid is hydrocodone. The United States is the number one consumer of hydrocodone (99 percent) in the world,” he said. More overdose deaths involve hydrocodone or oxycodone than all illegal drugs and alcohol combined, said CN certified prevention specialist Coleman Cox, who educates people about opioid drug abuse in Wagoner County. National Vital Statistics System data from 2015 indicate that deaths in Oklahoma attributable to opioids have exceeded the national rate with rapid increases since 1999. In that period, death rates attributable to painkillers in at least half of the 14 counties in the CN’s jurisdiction exceed the state rate of 8.7 per 100,000. Those counties are Cherokee (13), McIntosh (11.6), Mayes (11.1), Muskogee (11.1), Rogers (8.9), Sequoyah (12.3) and Wagoner (12.5). Opioid overdose signs include no response to stimuli, shallow or stopped breathing, person can’t be woken up, unusual snoring or gurgling sounds, blue-grey lips or finger tips and floppy arms and legs. It is recommended to not assume a person is asleep if you cannot get a response from him or her and to not let a person at risk “sleep it off.” Also, with a suspected overdose, do not leave the person alone and do not give the person anything to eat or drink or induce vomiting. “People believe that medication that comes from a doctor is less harmful. So, what happens with that is that people become accidentally addicted,” Bradshaw said. “It is really important to say this is a non-discriminatory destroyer. It doesn’t matter what your economic background is, your social class doesn’t matter or race. It’s an equal opportunity destroyer. Anybody can get addicted.” Addiction sometimes occurs after a person has surgery and is prescribed an opioid painkiller, he added. Bradshaw said he is wary of how he talks about prescription painkiller addiction because he has had “some push back from people in chronic pain” that rely on prescribed painkillers to relieve their pain. “We are not trying to take them away from people who legitimately need these medications. We have to have a balanced approach. We recognize and know that there are people in chronic pain that need their pain medication,” he said. “They should not feel like they are being profiled as a drug addict to get what they need to survive. What we are tying to prevent is misuse and abuse and dependency of opioid painkillers.” He said painkillers should be used appropriately or “taken as prescribed.” Problems and addictions can occur when people take more than the amount prescribed. “If you can’t get through the day without it, you’re dependent. That’s what we see. The people that are overdosing and dying are usually dependent on them,” Bradshaw said. “They’re taking 10 to 40 to 50 Lortabs a day, and that’s not a stretch.” There is no single indicator for when opioid abuse became a problem, but the epidemic claimed 28,647 lives in 2014, a four-fold increase in opioid overdoses since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To combat the epidemic, the CN received a $1 million Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant to strengthen drug misuse prevention efforts. A Department of Health and Human Services release states the grant program wants state and tribal entities to target prescription drug misuse, raise awareness about sharing medications and address the risks of overprescribing. It also seeks to raise community awareness and bring prescription drug misuse prevention activities and education to schools, communities, parents, prescribers and their patients.
09/22/2016 05:30 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A recently released report states Oklahoma has the eighth-highest adult obesity rate in the nation. A report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation states almost 34 percent of adults in the state are obese. Louisiana is ranked No. 1, while West Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama tied for second place. Arkansas is ranked No. 6. The rankings are based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Adult obesity rates in Oklahoma remained stable since the last survey, The Oklahoman reports. Kansas and Kentucky saw their obesity rates increase. Richard Hamburg, Trust for America’s Health interim president and CEO, said “obesity remains one of the most significant epidemics our country has faced, contributing to millions of preventable illnesses and billions of dollars in avoidable health care costs.” According to the report, 17 percent of children in Oklahoman live in households that have limited access to adequate food and nutrition due to cost, proximity and other reasons. The report also said the 30 percent of high school students in the state reported drinking one or more cans of soda per day. To encourage fitness, 18 states, including Oklahoma, have set a minimum amount of time that elementary students must participate in physical education.