Research institute examines Adair County health

09/11/2019 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
An Oklahoma research institute has conducted a detailed, health-focused review of Adair County, according to Cherokee Nation health care professionals. The results are now with the tribe’s Institutional Review Board. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – An Oklahoma research institute has conducted a detailed, health-focused review of Adair County, according to Cherokee Nation health care professionals.

CN Public Health Senior Director Lisa Pivec told the Tribal Council’s Public Health Sub-Committee that the Oklahoma City-based Lynn Institute completed an Adair County assessment.

“We were working with the Lynn Institute prior to the article in 2018 in the Washington Post about the U.S. Small Area Life Expectancy Estimates Project, which deemed that Adair County had the lowest life expectancy of any county in the United States,” Pivec said Aug. 29. “We were already working with the Lynn Institute at that time, and when the report came out, we started to dig into it. We started discussing how we might dig a little farther into that. What we were looking at didn’t match what we were reading. It was very hard to believe that these were accurate statistics. So we worked with the Lynn Institute, who is a nonprofit organization that does projects like this across Oklahoma.”

In 2018, Adair County and Stilwell made national headlines for having the lowest life expectancy in America, but CN leaders have questioned the accuracy of the study that led to that distinction.

Dubbed the “Strawberry Capital of the World,” Stilwell serves as the county seat of Adair County. Nearly half of the estimated 4,000 Stilwell residents are Native American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Stilwell residents are expected to live an average of 56.3 years, which is 22.5 years lower than the national average, according to a first-of-its-kind study released by the Centers of Disease Control & Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Pivec said the new assessment included 41 “key informant” interviews, 480-plus online surveys via social media and comparisons with other counties, tribal districts and the state.

“They did public opinion regarding the media reports on Adair County and Stilwell,” Pivec said.

“Then they made specific Adair County recommendations to improve the health and well-being of all residents. We reviewed all of this in a three-hour session with the Lynn Institute.”

Assessment results are in the hands of the CN’s Institutional Review Board, Pivec told councilors.

“Per protocol, it has to be reviewed,” she said. “It has to be vetted through there to be sure that the research and methodology that they said they were going to do they did do, and that everything is sound within the document. I can tell you on a personal note, this is an amazing document. I think that it’s going to be of tremendous assistance in working in Adair County.”

Tribal Councilor and committee member Mary Baker Shaw said she was looking forward to hearing research results.

“I cannot wait for the IRB to finish with that because I am dying to hear your presentation on that,” she said. “I’m thrilled that you all worked with the Lynn Institute because, my goodness, the caliber of that organization is legendary, for lack of a better way to put it.”
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