Asdzáán Be’eena’ studies culturally grounded program to improve health of Native women

Young Navajo women, Tia Bia and Devin Nelson, pose for a photo Jan. 8, 2019, in Valley Store, Arizona. (Photo courtesy of Kiliii Yuyan)

Young Navajo women, Tia Bia and Devin Nelson, pose for a photo Jan. 8, 2019, in Valley Store, Arizona. (Photo courtesy of Kiliii Yuyan)

The Asdzáán Be’eena’ or Female Pathways Program, a research study conducted between Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, community members and cultural experts from the Navajo Nation, is recruiting female participants from Tuba City and Chinle.

Investigators aim to evaluate the impact of "Asdzaan Be'eena'" or Female Pathways, on risk and protective factors for early substance use and early sexual activity through a randomized controlled trials.

The program’s goals are to promote protective factors associated with abstinence from risky sexual behaviors and substance use among Native American adolescents, according to Jaime Begay, research program coordinator with Johns Hopkins University.

The program is delivered to young girls and their female caregivers through 11 sessions, six that are taught to the individual dyads. The sessions are delivered by local family health coaches.

“The program was developed in partnership with the Tuba City and Chinle communities on the Navajo Nation over six years ago to support Navajo girls’ healthy transition into adulthood and beyond,” Begay said. “It works upstream by promoting positive Native identity and parent-child relationships with the goal of delaying sexual activity and prevent substance use.”

In a preliminary study, Asdzaan Be’eena increased cultural knowledge and connection, self-efficacy, social support and sexual health knowledge while decreasing depression, anxiety and attention problems amongst girls ages 8-11 who participated in the program. The program also improved social support and parenting self-efficacy among those girls’ mothers or female caregivers.

Begay said the pilot program was extremely successful.

“Girls and caregivers reported improved mental health, improved parent-child relationship and improved connection to culture,” she said. “These are all protective factors for reduced sexual risk behaviors and substance use. Girls were also more likely to intend to wait to have sex until marriage.”

Begay said the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health is now conducting a new study of the program that engages young girls ages 10- to 14-years-old and their mother or female caregiver. Participants who enroll in the study will participate in either the program or receive a few non-monetary incentives mailed to their home.

The program is actively recruiting participants for enrollment.

“Our team is excited to expand our work through a rigorous evaluation of the Asdzáán Be’eena’ program,” Begay said. “We will serve more Native women and further the program’s evidence-base through this trial.”

Begay explained, to participate in the program, all participants must identify as Native American and be willing to participate in either group.

Program participants are recruited through self-referrals and community partner referrals. All participants complete parental permission and informed consent before participation. Program impact on participants is assessed through post-program evaluations immediately following program completion and six and 12 months thereafter. All evaluations are administered by trained and independent evaluators.

More information is available by calling the Tuba City office at (928) 421-1029 or the Chinle office at (928) 674-6824.

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