CN Community Health promotes preventative health
Cherokee Nation Public Health educator Sonya Davidson, left, opens a box of donated garden kits with Monica Howe, Woodall Public Schools garden and food nutrition organizer, as part of the school’s Healthy Leadership Award in food nutrition participation on Oct. 17 at Woodall Public Schools in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Margie Burkhart, Cherokee Nation Public Health supervisor for primary prevention, right, meets with the Comprehensive Cancer Coalition to discuss goals and objectives for a five-year cancer control plan on Oct. 18 at the Cherokee Public Health building in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The coalition is one of the preventative health efforts offered by the CN’s Community Health Promotion program. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Community Health Promotion program is working to promote preventative health in communities in the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction.
As part of the tribe’s Public Health and Health Services, the CHP program informs Cherokees about taking preventative health measures so that in the long run chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease will be at a minimum among them.
“Our program strengthens community health efforts to help communities prevent disease and promote healthy living. We strive to make healthy living easier,” Julie Deerinwater, Public Health program coordinator, said.
The program aims to accomplish this via sub-programs, partnerships and resources in the communities. Approximately 20 public health educators are trained and located throughout the CN to implement strategies to improve community health.
“We focus more on large groups of people and programs. We focus on…things that impact environments,” Deerinwater said. “Those educators are kind of the boots on the ground and they establish the local partnerships. So they’ve worked with schools. They’ve worked with community coalitions a lot, and they’ve worked to establish partnerships with businesses.”
The CHP program also works with schools on reviewing and revising tobacco-free campus policies and creating healthier food options.
Woodall Public Schools is an example of a community-based preventative health partnership in which students have learned to plant a garden and learn about healthier food options. The school received a Healthy Leadership Award and classroom garden kits to further educate students on growing healthy food.
Sonya Davidson, Public Health educator, works with WPS in implementing food nutrition at the school by collecting pre-and-post body mass index information on students. She said with the award, students must choose to focus on physical activity or nutrition.
“We provide them with funds to either implement physical activity or the nutrition component, and we come back at the end and reevaluate everything to see how implementing those programs affected the children,” Davidson said.
Monica Howe, WPS garden and food nutrition organizer, said she’s seeing students become more conscientious about their food choices. “I know that they’re more aware of good food choices when they say the word ‘junk food’ and they know it’s not exactly the best choice for them.”
WPS has also implemented a tobacco-free campus policy.
“Once those are implanted and in place, it really protects not only those students but the staff and a lot of our community members that utilize those school buildings for other community events because they serve as community hubs. So with tobacco-free environments, you’re really protecting people from second-hand smoke,” Deerinwater said.
CHP programs offer other preventative health services such as the Comprehensive Cancer Coalition. The coalition is part of the Oklahoma Strategic Tribal Alliance for Health and it meets monthly to discuss goals for a five-year cancer control plan.
Margie Burkhart, Public Health supervisor for primary prevention, said the coalition is divided into groups to cover different areas for cancer control such as prevention, screening and early detection, tobacco use and exposure, quality of life, data and evaluation and media.
“The community coalitions have been the link to kind of align plans. So a lot of the health issues we see in the communities, they’re the same issues that coalitions are working on that affect us all,” Deerinwater said.
Deerinwater said some people may not understand what community health or public health is.
“While the health care services focus on getting the individual healthy and helping them, they may be sick and getting them better. We are out in the community and Cherokee Nation values preventative services,” she said. “We’re really trying to help shape our communities to where it makes healthy living easy so that our citizens can have a healthy quality of life.”
For more information, visit www.cherokeepublichealth.org