TUBA CITY, Ariz. - In late August a Women's and Men's Health Conference was held and sponsored by community health organizations including Tuba City Health Education, HIV Prevention Program, Hopi CHR, Department of Behavioral Health, Navajo Nation CHR and Navajo Nation Breast Cancer. The theme of the conference was "Taking Care: Empower Self and Love Ones."
On Aug. 25 Loretta Chino, from Navajo Nation Breast Cancer Program (NNBCP), functioned as the emcee of the event. She started the day on a lighthearted note with jokes and funny stories. She also gave a presentation on cancer awareness.
"The best thing you can do is to get checked for cancer," said Chino. "A mammogram is the only way to detect breast cancer. People are afraid, that is why they don't get mammograms. Traditionally it is taboo to talk about cancer. People feel it is inviting it into the home. In the past women died because they didn't know about breast cancer. Now there is technology available to detect cancer and it can be cured. Women have glands in the armpits and the milk glands and if you notice wrinkles, moles, dimples or discharge you should get checked. Women can check themselves and if there is any sensitivity or a bump you should get checked. Breast cancer is hereditary on the mother's side."
Another health concern for women is cervical cancer, which is caused by having numerous sexual partners
"Watch your children and what they are doing to make sure they are not getting into bad situations," said Chino.
For men she suggested they get colonoscopies to check for any polyps in the colon.
Gary Davis, a prevention specialist from the Tuba City Behavioral Health Service, gave a presentation on family strengthening. When he asked children how they perceived women and men, they responded that women are caring and that men are drunks.
"Women are the biggest users of meth because of the weight loss," said Davis. "Meth can break your future."
He also mentioned that sexuality at schools is inappropriate and has become a rite of passage. He mentioned that some parents that are meth users are exposing their children to inappropriate adult activities. Because of this environment, children have issues that have not been seen before in children as young as 5-years-old.
"Principles such as wisdom, self-control, love, positive attitude, integrity, and humility should be taught to the children," said Davis. "Make a habit about talking about what they are grateful for, to believe in something such as the sun coming up. We need principles in our life."
Leandrew Sixkiller from Child Protective Services (CPS) in Kayenta spoke about father and son relationships. He has worked for CPS for six years, lived on the Navajo Reservation for 15 years and received his degrees at NAU. He said 66 percent of Native American and African Americans have no fathers in the home, and 50 percent of some Native American communities consist of single mothers. There are higher rates of dysfunction in fatherless homes. He said "violence in the home equals violence in the streets." Many things that happen in the home are seen by the children and they grow up being violent as well.
"I see many different bulletins about different things but never about sex abuse," said Sixkiller. "Children don't tell anyone about sex abuse."
He asked people to describe their best intimate moment. He pointed out that it is awkward to talk about those type of things, especially for a child when they have to tell a police officer then go to court and testify.
One issue of concern is "in the Navajo Nation sexual abuse of children is acceptable because someone comes and tells the child not to say anything since many times it will be a close relative that they don't want to get into trouble."
Beatrice Norton from the Hopi Community health Services did a presentation on elder abuse. She said what goes on in grandma and grandpa's house is financial, verbal, emotional, physical abuse and neglect. It used to be grandma's place was a happy place but now it is not happy anymore.
"It is happening in all Native communities," said Norton. "Elders need to learn new things and be protected since they are vulnerable. Elders should be held in high esteem. They are the ones that did everything for us. Children now tell people what to do, and elders no longer have the respect."
Rachel Povatah from the HOPI Substance Abuse Prevention Center discussed drug abuse, what to look for and how we can help.
"There are many signs of alcohol abuse such as persistent cough, insomnia and restlessness or red eyes that we need to look out for," said Povatah. "Many times when we get hurt we drink over it. Alcoholics have an allergy to alcohol so they need to get help to get well. Spirit is a medicine, they tell you to pray it's going to be alright."