Announcements for 2010

December 27, 2010 (historical)

NIH Hosts the 5th Annual American Indian/Alaska Native Workshop

The trans-NIH American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) Health Communications and Information Work Group recently hosted a half-day workshop for NIH communications staff on "Creating Connections: Building Partnerships between the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)."

Group photo of speakers and moderators at the 2010 NIH AI/AN Workshop

Speakers and moderators at the 2010 NIH AI/AN Workshop. From left: Wilbur Woodis, OASH; Leo Nolan, IHS; Susan Anderson, IHS; Thomas Sweeney, IHS; Mimi Lising, NIAMS; Ben Smith, IHS; Marin Allen, OD/OCPL. Not pictured: Mose Herne, IHS.

This event brought together IHS and NIH staff to foster an environment for collaboration and networking between the agencies. Further, the workshop opened lines of communication and helped participants.

In her welcoming remarks, Marin P. Allen, Ph.D., Deputy Associate Director for Communications and Public Liaison and Director of Public Information, NIH, expressed her enthusiasm for this event. She stressed the “importance of making an effort to create new and lasting partnerships to reach AI/AN communities in need.” Through this workshop, both agencies hoped to further explore common interests and create an environment of mutual dialogue and sharing that would spark creative and innovative ideas for future collaboration.

The workshop opened with an invocation blessing by Wilbur Woodis, M.A., (Dine’ [Navajo] Mud Clan), Special Assistant to the Director on Native American Affairs, Office of Minority Health, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. Setting the tone for the meeting, Woodis sang a soulful “thinking song” to help open participants’ minds and hearts and fully engage them in dialogue and sharing. Through the use of a woven Apache basket, he demonstrated how Navajo tribes used constellations such as the North Star, the Big Dipper, and the Milky Way, to guide their daily decision-making.

Leo J. Nolan, M.Ed., Senior Policy Analyst for External Affairs, IHS, gave a thorough overview of the agency’s mission, goals, and structure. The IHS furnishes a complete package of medical and public health services to achieve health and wellness for its constituents. The agency also provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for nearly 60 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The Indian health care system is built on a broad-spectrum approach to health. At the base is a fundamental public health and sanitation infrastructure. The IHS makes available inpatient and ambulatory medical services and integrates community-oriented programs and traditional medicine to promote healthy behaviors and lifestyles. In the wake of a population growth rate of 1.6 percent per year, an increasingly tighter budget, and the rising cost of medical care, Nolan reemphasized the importance of looking at ways the two government agencies could combine their strengths and resources to achieve the common goal of improving health.

With staff from various IHS offices moderating concurrent roundtable discussions, participants had the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the agency’s different functions and identify ways IHS and NIH programs intersect. Neyal J. Ammary-Risch, M.P.H., CHES, Director, National Eye Health Education Program, NEI Office of Communication, Health Education, and Public Liaison, said the staff from IHS offered to share information she sends them through their listservs. She believes she "received some good suggestions from the IHS members [she] spoke with to help further [her] health education and health communications efforts."

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The trans-NIH American Indian/Alaska Native Health Communications and Information Work Group provides a forum for health education and communications staff from the NIH Institutes and Centers to share strategies and effective communication approaches to develop and disseminate health information for AI/AN communities.