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
BY CHRISTINA GOODVOICE
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.”

christina-goodvoice@cherokee.org • 918-207-3825

Health

BY WILL CHAVEZ
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 takeasprescribed.org, 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 takeasprescribed.org. “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.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
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.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/21/2016 05:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital will host an Affordable Care Act Outreach and Enrollment Fair from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 20, less than two weeks before the Nov. 1 open enrollment. “Nov. 1, 2016, will mark the beginning of the fourth Open Enrollment Period for the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace,” Sheila Dishno, patient benefit coordinator, said. “Even though members of federally recognized tribes have a special monthly enrollment status, it is important for American Indian and Alaska Native individuals and families to learn about their insurance options. Whether it’s purchasing insurance through the Marketplace or qualifying for SoonerCare, knowing that you have quality coverage provides peace of mind.” Dishno said people who attend the fair should bring their Social Security cards, pay stubs, W-2 forms or wage and tax statements, policy numbers for any current health insurance and information about any health insurance they or their families could get from an employer. Also Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Oklahoma will attend to assist patients with signing up for free-to-low-cost health insurance. The hospital is located at 101 S. Moore Ave. For more information, call 918-342-6240.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/13/2016 12:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital on Sept. 29 will sponsor a U.S. Veterans Affairs Enrollment Fair to assist Native American veteran patients in applying for eligibility for health care services through the VA. The fair is slated for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in its Large Conference Room as benefit coordinators and representatives from the VA and Disabled American Veterans assist with application processing. To enroll, veterans must bring financial information such as income and resources and their DD-214 military discharge papers. If already enrolled, call 918-342-6507, 918-342-6240 or 918-342-6559 to update your file. Also, the VA now requires all veterans to complete a MEANS test yearly. Veterans who have not completed tests in the past year, can complete them at the fair. The hospital is located at 101 S. Moore Ave.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/29/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s work creating healthier conditions for its citizens is now ranked among the best in the country, a first for any tribe. In late August, the CN Public Health received accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board. The PHAB serves as the national public health accrediting body. It is jointly supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It sets standards for the nation’s nearly 3,000 governmental public health departments to improve the quality of their services and performance. Fewer than 200 public health agencies nationally have earned the title in the past five years. The CN is the first tribe to now hold that honor. “The Cherokee Nation joins the growing ranks of accredited health departments in a strong commitment to their public health mission,” PHAB President and CEO Kaye Bender said. “The peer-review process provides valuable feedback to inform health departments of their strengths and areas for improvement, so that they can better protect and promote the health of the people they serve in their communities. Residents of a community served by a nationally accredited health department can be assured that their health department has demonstrated the capacity to protect and promote the health of that community.” The Public Health team 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 issues such as triggers for childhood asthma. It also pays entry fees to 5K races and operates a gym with certified public health trainers for CN citizens and employees for free to promote healthier lifestyles. Public Health agencies, including the CN’s, promote healthy behavior; preventing diseases and injuries; ensuring access to safe food, water, clean air and life-saving immunizations; and responding to public health emergencies. The Oklahoma Department of Health, Oklahoma City-County Health Department, Tulsa Health Department, Comanche County Health Department and the CN are the only accredited entities statewide. “Our congratulations to the Cherokee Nation for achieving national public health accreditation,” Dr. Terry Cline, Oklahoma State Department of Health commissioner and Health and Human Services secretary, said. “As the first tribal nation in the country to achieve this accreditation, the Cherokee Nation continues a long tradition of excellence and quality in protecting and promoting health, and they are to be commended for this outstanding accomplishment.” According to the PHAB, a University of Chicago study found that more than 90 percent of health departments accredited for one year indicated that accreditation helped them better identify strengths and weaknesses and more than 80 percent found they improved accountability to stakeholders, while half reported it helped improve their chances for competitive funding. “Receiving national accreditation through the PHAB is a testament to the years of quality work by our public health team at the Cherokee Nation,” Connie Davis, Public Health executive director, said. “This seal of approval allows us to further improve upon our work in public health and on epidemiological issues.” Officials said Public Health leaders spent the past four years working on the accreditation, which involves meeting or exceeding a rigorous, peer-reviewed set of standards. “Achieving accreditation means we at the Cherokee Nation are cognizant of the crucial role of public health in our communities and demonstrates our ability to be a mutually-beneficial partner for all citizens,” Lisa Pivec, Public Health senior director, said. “We believe it communicates our serious commitment to both improving health and delivering quality public health services to all.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/29/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Oklahoma Hospital Association recently recognized Cherokee Nation’s W.W. Hastings Hospital for vaccinating the majority of its staff with flu shots this past flu season. The hospital is among 49 in the state to meet the association’s challenge goal of a 96 percent or higher vaccination rate of health care staff for the 2015-16 flu season. More than 800 members of the Hastings staff received the vaccine this past flu season. “Cherokee Nation’s health department and our talented staff that operates the hospital and clinics routinely go above and beyond for the wellness of our tribal citizens,” said Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Administration and promotion of the annual flu shot means we are being proactive in ensuring our immunization rates trend positively. That’s important because every year the influenza virus often targets our most vulnerable Cherokee people, including elders and children.” OHA officials said influenza is associated with 36,000 deaths per year and commended the recognized hospitals with certificates for working diligently to protect their patients with vaccinations. “These hospitals have stepped up in ensuring their patients are protected and a number are joining a trend of hospitals nationwide in instituting mandatory vaccination policies,” LaWanna Halstead, OHA vice president of quality and clinical initiatives, said. Hastings Hospital was also recognized recently for receiving four out of five stars from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This places Hastings in the top 4 percent of the more than 7,000 organizations it is compared with. The ratings come from patient satisfaction quality of inpatient care measures. Individuals can use Hospital Compare to compare more than 7,000 Medicare-certified hospitals across the country to compare the quality of care. “The W.W. Hastings Hospital health care providers and staff work tirelessly to ensure our patients receive the best health care possible,” Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail said. “Recognition of their efforts from organizations like the Oklahoma Hospital Association and high ratings from our patients on the Hospital Care system serve as validation of our staff’s dedication to first-class health care.” Hastings Hospital received more than 360,000 patient visits in fiscal year 2015. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/services/health" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/services/health</a>.