The University of Kansas Medical Center has been awarded a five-year, $7.5 million grant to study and address health disparities facing American Indians.
Medical center officials said they plan to use the grant to start the Center for American Indian Community Health.
“This is the largest community participation partnership we’ve ever had at the medical center,” said Dr. K. Allen Greiner, an associate professor at the medical center and a principle investigator at the community health center.
Receipt of the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities grant was announced here Friday during a ceremony at Haskell Indian Nations University.
In the United States, American Indians are more than four times as likely to die of diabetes and twice as likely to die from tobacco-related illnesses as the population at-large.
“Among some native groups, the rates of diabetes are higher than anywhere in the world, approaching 80 percent,” said Christine Daley, a KU associate professor of preventive medicine and public health.
American Indians have the lowest five-year survival rates for all major cancers and the lowest screening rates for breast and colorectal cancers.
Their obesity rates, too, are among the highest in the nation.
Daley, who will serve as the new community health center’s director, said major studies will be done on diet, exercise and tobacco use among tribal college students, and on why American Indian women fail to get repeat mammograms.
The community health center also will work with Haskell, tribal colleges, and high schools to develop a “pipeline” for encouraging more American Indian students to pursue careers in medicine and public health.
Already, the community health center has 19 summer interns — all of whom are American Indians — and officials said they expect to have four or five interns in place during school year.
Daley and Shelley Bointy, project director, said the center would steer clear of non-American Indians telling American Indians how to live their lives.
“This isn’t going to be a group of researchers coming in from the outside, determining what people need,” Bointy said. “It’s going to be native people determining for ourselves what we think our needs are, what we want to see addressed as a community and across the United States.”
Bointy is a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes in Montana.
In 2003, the Department of Preventative Medicine and Public Health developed All Nations Breath of Life, a smoking cessation program for American Indian communities, many of which have long used tobacco in their ceremonies.
Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death among American Indians.