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Wednesday, 01 December 2010 20:49

Partner institutions reaffirm commitment to Native health

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Western Carolina University, Wake Forest University and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have reaffirmed their partnership to promote Native health initiatives.

Since 2006, the three institutions have collaborated to support the Culturally Based Native Health Program, or CBNHP. The CBNHP has two components: a graduate and undergraduate Native health certificate offered through WCU; and a Native youth-to-health careers initiative summer camp that takes place at Wake Forest.

“We are recommitting ourselves to initiatives we started four years ago,” said Lisa Lefler, a professor of medical anthropology and director of the WCU component of the program.

Principal Chief Michell Hicks of the EBCI, WCU Chancellor John Bardo and Provost Jill Tiefenthaler of Wake Forest formally updated the agreement at a meeting Nov. 16 on the WCU campus. Provisions of the new agreement include an extension of the terms through August 2015 and for Wake Forest to support qualified EBCI applicants. WCU agrees to “provide in-kind technological support and consultation to promote these collaborative efforts and support of American Indian students in education and career development.”

Bardo stressed the partnership’s strength and value. Tiefenthaler, citing the economy, said institutions are “in the age of partnerships.” Hicks said the tribe is interested in expanding the relationship to include other fields, such as architecture or accounting, for example.

The Native health certificate was developed with tribal community members and health professionals to provide a curriculum based on culture to inform providers about the unique nature of Indian health policy and the historical and cultural contexts of heath. This 12-hour, fully online program is one of the first in the nation to include a partnership with a Native community.

The second component of the CBNHP, the medical career counseling and technologies program, also called MedCat, responds to the universal need for more Native health care workers by recruiting high school students interested in medical careers and related technologies.

The CBNHP works in other ways to heighten awareness of Native health issues. A public lecture series featured its second speaker this fall semester, and a concert and free symposium in October raised raise awareness of the intersection of environmental, health and indigenous issues related to the destruction of mountain land.

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