by Christina Haswood
The Center for American Indian Community Health (CAICH) here at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC), goes far back to my middle school days. Back when I didn’t even know I wanted to become a public health professional let alone attend graduate school. Our sister organization, American Indian Health Research & Education Alliance (AIHREA), puts on an annual powwow at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) where I used to dance. Their approach to bringing health education and awareness at a powwow was a new concept I hadn’t seen before but they always gave away free tshirts. I first interned for CAICH as an undergraduate summer intern then came back as a grad student where I am currently a Graduate Research Assistant with the privilege of having the Alternative Tobacco project as my internship and capstone. Being a Navajo woman who was born and raised in Lawrence, KS, I will gladly take any opportunity to give back to my community.
The CAICH was founded in 2010 with a mission to “improve the physical, mental, spiritual, and cultural health of American Indian (AI) communities and individuals throughout Kansas, the region, and the nation through collaborative research, education, and service.”1 They conduct community-based participatory research (CBPR) to Native communities, bring awareness to Native health issues, assist Native students into the health field, and provide services (i.e. health literacy & education) to communities. Many CAICH projects are on and off the reservation and programs such as the All Nations Breath of LIfe (ANBL) provide culturally tailored tobacco cessation programs that have the highest quit rates in the country.
My capstone project is on the Understanding Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors Surrounding Alternative Tobacco Product Use in American Indian College Students. I have seen this project go from the ground up as I’ve worked on it last semester (Fall 2019) for my internship class. The main objective for the capstone is to perform a qualitative analysis on the focus group transcriptions to see if there is a need for an American Indian (AI) alternative tobacco prevention program.
There is no current published research or prevention programs that are culturally tailored to American Indians to combat the growing concerns of vape and other alternative tobacco devices. This will also give the students the opportunity to voice out their concerns and share their opinions. They are a part of the solution that will be designed for them and their peers.