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Guest Opinion. Cherokee Nation is on the leading edge of health care for Native peoples. Thanks to our investments in world class care, we operate the largest tribal health system in the United States. Cherokees and other Native Americans come from across the country to get medical care at our facilities.

Still, we know that treating sickness is not enough. At Cherokee Nation Health Services and throughout our tribal government, we are guided by the goal of helping Cherokees have healthier, more fulfilling lives. To make that happen, all of our patients deserve access to the latest treatments and models of care.

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Recently, we were glad to host representatives from the federal Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) to kick off their Novel Innovations for Tissue Regeneration in Osteoarthritis (NITRO) program. The program's goal is to eradicate osteoarthritis, a common condition affecting bones and joints. Osteoarthritis often brings debilitating pain and loss of functional movement, and it can require costly reconstructive surgery.

Osteoarthritis affects millions of people nationwide, and unfortunately American Indians have among the highest prevalence in the country. The cost of this disease is measured not only in pain suffered by patients, but a loss of capacity that can make it harder to participate in cultural and family life. That’s why improving treatment and prevention of osteoarthritis has the potential to strengthen our entire nation.

The kickoff event brought together teams of researchers from leading institutions across the United States, including Duke University, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Colorado Boulder, Columbia University, and Case Western Reserve University. These teams shared visions for revolutionizing the treatment of osteoarthritis through innovative regenerative therapies that prevent the need for surgery, as well as better replacement joints. They were joined by ARPA-H Director Dr. Renee Wegrzyn and others from her team.

Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.

ARPA-H specifically chose Cherokee Nation for the launch of this program out of a commitment to putting the needs of diverse populations at the forefront of their work. The visitors heard from Cherokee Nation Health Services providers, who shared firsthand how osteoarthritis is affecting our people and the challenges of treating it in a tribal health care setting. They toured our facilities and learned about Cherokee history and culture.

Our work with ARPA-H is not a one-off event. Cherokee Nation is a member of the agency’s Investor Catalyst hub, which connects researchers, entrepreneurs and investors to the people who can most benefit from their work. Through this collaboration, we can make sure tribes have a strong voice in the development of advanced research programs.

Together, we are working toward a day when arthritis is an easily treatable condition that does not get in the way of Cherokees living their best lives.

Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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About The Author
Author: Chuck Hoskin JrEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.