National Indian Women’s Health Resource Center promotes healthy living for Natives
Since 1999 the National Indian Women’s Health Resource Center has been educating American Indian women and their families about how to live long, healthy lives. The organization provides women with pamphlets and educational trainings on topics including sexually transmitted diseases, alcohol abuse and suicide prevention. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Janie Dibble, National Indian Women’s Health Resource Center executive director, sorts through education materials in her office at 228 S. Muskogee Avenue in Tahlequah. Dibble has been with the organization since its inception and said despite its name, it’s for women and their families to receive education and resources. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – For nearly 20 years, the National Indian Women’s Health Resource Center has supported Native American women, their families and the communities in which they call home.
“We’re a national women’s resource center, but it’s not just for women. It’s for women and their families, so of course men and children are also involved, especially if we have parenting classes,” Janie Dibble, NIWHRC executive director, said.
The nonprofit organization began in 1999 with an Indian Health Service grant to provide Native women resources and prevention education on various topics.
“Prevention education is the key,” Dibble said. “We do a lot of prevention education on topics including HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, drugs and alcohol, suicide prevention and hepatitis C.”
The NIWHRC operates under a board of directors that covers all 12 IHS areas and relies on grant funding for its services.
“It’s based on our funding as to how much we’re doing and what we’re doing,” Dibble said. “We write for grants, and sometimes we get contracts with different organizations to do things that they would like for us to do.”
It recently partnered with Northeastern State University to teach students between ages 18-24 about safe sex and drug and alcohol abuse.
“Statistics show that at an early age, many (youth) are already drinking, doing drugs, having unprotected sex,” Dibble said. “At the college level, a lot of them do not know and understand. They’re meeting all these people and heavily drinking and things like that that maybe an adult hadn’t spoken with them about.”
Dibble said she recruits people for NIWHRC trainings by explaining what will be covered.
“Everyone is different about the reasons why they will or won’t come to certain trainings,” she said. “People will think, ‘I’m past all that,’ and then I’ll give some examples of stuff that’s their age or older and trying to show them that, ‘yes, there’s still a need.’ When you can kind of share some examples they think, ‘oh, maybe I will come to your class.’”
The NIWHRC also advocates for people to get HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C testing.
“So many of the sexually transmitted diseases, they’re called silent diseases because so many people don’t even know they have them, not for years,” Dibble said. “That’s one reason sometimes that women are infertile, or men too, because they’ve had sexually transmitted diseases for years and didn’t even know it.”
The NIWHRC offers free HIV/AIDS testing in its Tahlequah office at 228 S. Muskogee Ave., though Dibble said much of the testing happens at events when it’s partnered with coalitions. “It really is confidential, and it is free, so when they want to be tested the tester explains all that to them. When we’re doing the prevention education and why we’re doing these classes is to stress to them the importance of testing at an early age because if they were infected with HIV or hepatitis C the sooner they find out the better for getting on medication and live a healthy long life.”
Another emphasis is suicide prevention and how to recognize signs of someone struggling with suicidal thoughts.
“For the suicide prevention, we provide trainings to the staff, the teachers at the schools that want us to,” Dibble said. “It’s called QPR, or question, persuade, refer. It’s an hour to an hour-and-a-half class, but it gives them the tools to recognize the signs and symptoms of somebody who might be struggling with depression, different things that could eventually lead to suicide.”
Dibble said the subject matters are often “difficult” for Native communities. “It can be difficult, you know, because a lot of Native communities aren’t open to hearing about it or think that it won’t happen to them. Or even if it has happened, they don’t want to talk about it to anybody. These people and these communities really need education.”
For more information, visit www.niwhrc.com
or call 918-456-6094.