Health report: Prenatal vitamin use up, substance use down among Native mothers
TSAILE, Ariz. — The Navajo Epidemiology Center and Diné College recently released its “2020 Navajo Nation Maternal and Child Health Needs Assessment,” which incorporates traditional understandings of health on the Navajo Nation.
The report was developed collaboratively between the Navajo Native American Research Centers for Health Partnership (NNARCH), Diné College Northern Arizona University and the Navajo Department of Health.
“Our goal is to improve the health and well-being of mothers and children here on the Nation,” said Amber-Rose Waters, project coordinator with Diné College’s public health program. “We listened to the voices of parents, grandparents, teens, elders and others in order to make this report as complete and useful as possible.”
The report incorporates Navajo traditional understandings of health, including the Są’áh Naagháí Bik'eh Hózhóó framework which means to live a long and healthy life while maintaining balance and harmony. The use of this framework connects kinship, the environment and personal and community health. This framework also incorporates an understanding of health that includes not only physical aspects, but emotional and spiritual aspects, as well as the connection to the land.
The report notes several improvements in health, including declines in substance use, improvements in immunizations of children and pre-natal uptake of vitamins.
“This is good news,” said Del Yazzie of the Navajo Epidemiology Center.
Yazzie said the report also indicates areas that need improvement.
“There is a need for more support for breastfeeding mothers, better access to services for kids with special needs, and better prenatal, infant, child and adolescent care. The data from this study will support our efforts to make those improvements,” he said.
The Navajo Epidemiology Center looked to the public health program at Diné College to locate and organize existing data and develop the report, according to Dr. Mark Bauer of Diné College.
“As one of the few colleges in the U.S. offering a four-year bachelor’s degree program in public health, we were in a strong position to assist in this effort,” Bauer said. “Our senior level students contributed a wealth of information to this report, and we thank them for that.”
The report was funded by NNARCH and the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). NNARCH is in turn funded by the National Institutes of Health to increase the numbers of Navajo health professionals with an educational pathway in public health from high school to graduate school. The partnership has also provided support for the Navajo Nation Hantavirus Conference and the Navajo Research Conference in recent years, coordinated by Diné College, the Navajo Department of Health and the Navajo Epidemiology Center.
The report is available on the website of the Navajo Nation Department of Health at https://www.nec.navajo-nsn.gov/Epi-Reports
Information provided by Dine College