TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — As part of a nationwide partnership, the National Native Network recently met to formally organize a five year plan to positively impact American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations experiencing tobacco related and cancer health disparities. In keeping with the spirit and the mandate of the program, as well as the policy of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, the event was held at a smoke free facility, The Signature at the MGM in Las Vegas.
Last October, the National Native Network through the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan (ITCM) was awarded a grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health, to educate, communicate and promote implementation of effective community and clinical interventions to reduce the high rates of commercial tobacco use and cancer among the AI/AN population.
The effort uses partners from tribes and tribal organization across the U.S., including the Cherokee Nation, Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, California Rural Indian Health Board, and the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board. The National Native Network seeks to reach tribal communities and populations across all regions of the U.S. with tools, trainings, and media in commercial tobacco use and cancer prevention and control. Materials developed from the group will be available for all tribal nations in the U.S. and beyond.
“We are off to a solid beginning this year by having an invigorating kick-off meeting with all of our partner nations,” said Derek J. Bailey, ITCM Government Relations and Tribal Policy Consultant. “We are excited to continue the work of promoting tobacco cessation and prevention, and also increasing cancer awareness that results from the addictive use of commercial tobacco.”
A 2011 report by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shows that 31 percent of the current adult smokers in the U.S. were Native American, far higher than any other ethnic group. Studies also show that cigarette smoking is responsible for about one in five deaths annually, or more than 440,000 deaths per year.
An estimated 49,000 of these smoking-related deaths are the result of secondhand smoke exposure to adults and children alike who do not smoke.
The CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health has worked collaboratively with the National Native Network across Indian country to develop a culturally specific tobacco education training and technical assistance program over the past several years. The new funding period for the next five years will expand these efforts to address both commercial tobacco and cancer. The training and technical assistance addresses various types of methods and best practices to educate, increase awareness and provide culturally traditional teachings for the sacred use of tobacco, which in its pure form is recognized by many tribal nations as a sacred element.
“Through meaningful collaboration, a team-focused approach, and strong social media impact, our National Native Network group looks forward to furthering programming that will positively impact all ages within our American Indian/Alaska Native communities,” Bailey said.
For more information on the National Native Network, please call Derek Bailey (231) 715-6424. For more information about Keep It Sacred, please visit www.keepitsacred.org