Hopi Health Care Center a viable part of community

HHCC stages mass vaccination drill and agricultural exhibit

POLACCA - The Hopi Health Care Center (HHCC) has become an important part of the Hopi communities across the reservation. The staff and administration of HHCC continues to focus on holistic approaches towards the establishment of a healthy population. As part of this goal, HHCC was involved in a mass vaccination drill as well as an historic photograph exhibit and traditional food reception.

On Nov. 19, a mass vaccination drill was staged at First Mesa Elementary School. It involved between 50 tribal, county, state and federal entities, including Hopi Tribal Law Enforcement and HHCC. The mass vaccination drill was staged to demonstrate the tribe's capability of mass-vaccinating the community in the event of an emergency. The event was a success, with 1,086 individuals receiving their flu vaccinations.

"The mass flu vaccination exercise was a collaborative event with the Navajo Area Office Incident Command Team (NAOICT)," said Lisa Lomavaya. "The NAOICT operated a Unified Command Emergency Operation Center (EOC) out of the Navajo Indian Health Service (IHS) area office in St. Michaels." Lomavaya also serves as the HHCC volunteer program coordinator.

Access to school grounds was carefully orchestrated, with traffic control staff positioned to direct the public to several large tents located at the entrance to the school gymnasium. There, each person received basic information about the vaccine and filled out a form for inclusion in his or her medical record.

"We ask questions, such as whether or not a patient has had a flu shot before," Kathy Merry said. "We explain the restrictions, who should not have a shot, and ascertain whether they are a viable candidate for the vaccine." Children who were bussed in were checked for parental permission slips before proceeding.

Hopi and Navajo translators were available for those who needed them. Vaccinations were offered to members of area Navajo chapters.

Once inside the gymnasium, vaccine recipients were registered, their date of birth verified, and each child was checked for a properly completed parental permission slip. The next stop for each patient was the immunization station, where the vaccine was quickly delivered.

Carletta Joshevama, the lead for vaccination, said that this year's event was hard for her because she had no prior experience in mass vaccination. But she praised her staff.

"The staff was flexible, and willing to work," Joshevama said. "Once the kinks were worked out ... things went well-except for when we ran out of child vaccine."

Tammy Fern presided over the juvenile vaccination section.

"We had a wonderful turnout," Fern said. "I admire the teamwork here at Hopi. The kids have been most impressive. Most took it well. A couple of them were upset, [but] there was an area set aside where they could be taken so they didn't upset the rest of the children."

Fern and her team handled one baby, but most of their patients were between the age of three and 14.

Once vaccinated, adults and staff members visited a survey section, headed by Glenda Ami. There, they were given the opportunity to rate their experience.

Finally, individuals were seated to rest for about 15 minutes, where they were monitored to ensure there were no adverse effects from the vaccine. Of the 1,086 people vaccinated, there was only one report of adverse effects.

A triage station manned by Hopi EMT staff was on hand in case of such an event. Beth Boyley said the most common effect is the vaso-vagel response, or dizziness and fainting.

"A couple of people reported feeling a little faint, but that was it," Boyley said.

The final station for employees and volunteers was the Financing-Evaluation station, where working hours were reported and vests were checked in and out. Thelma Tewahaftewa orchestrated operations there.

Even the Hopi Rangers played a part in the event.

"Our role was to secure the vaccine from the Hopi Health Care Center to the point of distribution," Neva Talayumptewa explained. "We provided security to ensure that nothing happened at the site. We had additional security of the outside area [as well]."

Talayemptewa and Derrick Begay transported the vaccine from Gallup, N.M.

After six hours of operations and a debriefing, the event was over-without having disturbed the normal operations of the school children who played and learned only yards from a mass vaccination effort.

Food for life photo exhibit

HHCC is also hosting an exhibit of 30 historic photographs depicting agricultural life on the Hopi Reservation between 1895 and 1930. There is no sign of obesity in the photos, which also depict the large quantity of foods prepared by families in the past-long before corner stores and fast food.

The exhibit opened with a reception on Dec. 9. Attendees were greeted by Miss Hopi 2007-2008 Kassondra Yaiva and her first and second attendants Emmalynn Thompson and Nicole Johns.

Leland Dennis, who serves as curator of the exhibit, said that he was excited to introduce the photos to the community.

"It was a lot of work putting this exhibit together, but the importance of traditional food is one thing that we should never forget as Hopi people," Dennis explained.

Amy Taylor shared information of how to prepare and preserve the foods. She and her family grew all of the domestic food on their land; and collected the wild foods.

"I've canned and frozen foods, but the most effective way of preserving food is drying," Taylor said. "The food that I have dried keeps a better flavor and lasts longer."

Food has immense social and spiritual importance in the Hopi culture. Research has proven the health benefits of Hopi traditional food items and preparation methods. Boiling, baking, heating and steaming foods are some of the methods used in preparing harvested vegetables and fruits including meats. Before, Taylor explained, the Hopi people did not fry their foods.

Farmer Max Taylor explained that a lot of young people at Hopi are getting into native plants.

"I try to educate people in how to collect these plants," Taylor said. "People must be careful when they collect plants that depend upon their seeds to reproduce. If all of the plant is collected before it has seeded, it will not come back the following year. Bi-annual plants are also dependent on seed production. We must also be concerned about the plants with a short growing season. Because of these conditions, we have to be careful not to over-harvest plants. It is important to educate people who want to collect."

"Land is more valuable than money," Leonard Talaswaima said. "As long as the sun shines and water flows, the land will feed us and our family. We received the gift of corn, water and planting sticks from Massau. In a land of desolation, with these three things, you will survive. Corn is a part of all Hopi ceremonies. It is present at the birth and naming ceremonies, at marriage and the final journey. Corn, along with squash, pumpkin, seeds, peaches and beans-the Hopi have sustained themselves with these foods."

Andy Lewis of the Hopi Foundation explained that the Tribe now has access to 500 historic photos, and that the Hopi Health Care Center was a most appropriate place to hang the exhibit.

"There are a lot of people here, a lot of traffic from people who should see them-people who are suffering from the consequences of poor diet and exercise habits," said Andy Lewis of the Hopi Foundation. "Only 28 percent of the Hopi population still garden, and the average family spends $75 to $104 for food for each individual per month."

Lewis explained that if more Hopi returned to farming, that revenue could be spent elsewhere on the reservation.

The event also featured a catered sampling of many favored Hopi traditional foods.

The Hopi Foundation and Natwani Coalition, partnered with the Hopi Health Care Center, hosted the exhibit through the support of the Christensen Fund, USDA Risk Management Agency, the USDA Community Food Project Program and support from the Hopi Tribe's Office of Cultural Preservation.

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