American Indian Public Health Resource Center Spreads Its Wings

A young organization housed at North Dakota State is tackling big issues 17 months after its founding.

The American Indian Public Health Resource Center was started in June 2014 by a $1.4 million grant provided by a charitable trust and over $720,000 matched by the North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Fund. The goal of the center is to provide technical assistance and work in partnership with tribal communities to increase access to public health resources.

The American Indian Public Health Resource Center works primarily in North Dakota but also works with other tribes in Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska.

Though the work of the center is mainly within tribal communities, the center also has programming for Native Americans in Fargo and other cities.

Areas of focus within this goal are public health services, public health policies, public health education and public health research.

“The role of public health is to prevent disease and promote health, whereas in medicine the goal is to treat disease so in public health we’re working further up stream, and we have unfortunately terrible health disparities among American Indian populations, and the vast majority of the disparities are preventable issues, so that’s why the focus on public health rather than just medical care,” said Dr. Donald Warne, American Indian Public Health Resource Center chair.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported several facts that illustrate the problem of the health disparities that occur among American Indian populations.

As of 2009, American Indians and Alaskan natives have a higher rate of motor vehicle related deaths than any other ethnicity.

From 1999 to 2010, drug-induced death rates in the 30-39 year age group were the highest among American Indians and Alaskan natives as compared to any other ethnicity.

As of 2010, the unemployment rate for American Indians and Alaskan natives aged 18 to 64 was 15.8 percent. As of 2011 the percentage of American Indian and Alaska natives living in poverty was among the largest when compared to non-Hispanic whites.

In 2011, American Indians and Alaskan Natives were among those with the largest prevalence, frequency and intensity of binge drinking, compared to other ethnic populations.

“For all people, all residents of North Dakota that even though we have tribal specific disparities, we’re all North Dakotans, and these issues should be a priority among all residents of the state not just the American Indian population,” Warne said.

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