WMU Collaborates with Native Americans to Develop Case Study Addressing Cultural Competency in Public Health Care

by Tyler Lecceadone
Oct. 30, 2017 | Extended University Programs News

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.,—Western Michigan University’s Grand Rapids public health and social work faculty recently developed curricula aimed at improving cultural competency for health professions students in collaboration with Native American partners in greater Grand Rapids.

The project, titled, "Enhancing the Circle of Health: Culturally Competent Public Health-Health Care Collaboration to Address Type 2 Diabetes and Tobacco Reduction in Native American Communities," was funded through a $14,637 joint grant provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research.

The funding was provided to develop the CDC 6|18 initiative, which targets six common and costly health conditions--tobacco use, high blood pressure, healthcare-associated infections, asthma, unintended pregnancies and diabetes--and initially, 18 proven specific interventions that formed the starting point of discussions with purchasers, payers and providers.

The curricula WMU faculty developed focuses on addressing diabetes and tobacco use among Native Americans. It will serve as a tool related to the CDC 6|18 initiative for university faculty in graduate health professions to teach health care providers how to provide culturally competent care to Native Americans.

Five video clips of local Native American experts were included in the case study to serve as invaluable learning tools for the students. The experts helped develop historical, social and cultural perspectives for the case in point of disparities in diabetes rates and commercial tobacco use among Native Americans. Once the CDC approves the final case study, it will be available for use in graduate school classrooms across the country.

“My input was to emphasize the value of tradition, spirituality and an indigenous food based diet to keep the assault of our health and our children’s health in check by embracing the ways of our grandmothers and grandfathers,” said one of the participants, Gun Lake Tribe Language and Culture Coordinator Lorraine “Punkin” Shananaquet of the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi- Gun Lake Tribe. “I also wanted to emphasize the generational distrust of the government, and therefore, the distrust for mainstream health services such as doctors, dentists and any other medical type services.”

Shananaquet went on to describe the value of working with Native health professionals to rebuild relationships of mutual respect and mutual understanding with Native communities. The case study is a first step toward this goal.

An interprofessional partnership within the WMU College of Health and Human Services, the grant proposal was submitted by Dr. Shannon McMorrow assistant professor for the WMU-Grand Rapids Master of Public Health program, along with Dr. Dee Sherwood and Dr. Vivian Valdmanis, program coordinators of the WMU-Grand Rapids Master of Social Work programs and Master of Public Health programs, respectively.

“Diabetes and tobacco use are important issues within Native American communities. We are honored that the CDC and Association for Prevention Teaching and Research chose us to develop a case study to ensure Native voices were included in training students on the CDC 6|18 initiative,” said McMorrow, principle investigator for the grant project.