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November 8, 2002

School Observes National American Indian Heritage Month

Michael Bird, MSW, MPH, the first American Indian president of the American Public Health Association and current director of the National Native American AIDS Prevention Center, will give a presentation at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on health issues facing Native Americans. The event will be held Nov. 25, from 12 to 1:30 p.m., with a reception to follow, and will be an observance of National American Indian Heritage Month. 

Bird, a member of the Santo Domingo and San Juan Pueblo tribes, has more than 20 years of experience in social work, substance abuse prevention, health promotion, and health administration. During his presentation, he will highlight the current health status of American Indians and Alaskan Natives; health disparities and inequities as compared to the general population; dispossession of ancestral lands as it pertains to health, education, language, culture, beliefs, and social well-being; positive contributions of American Indians and Alaskan Natives; and improving the health of this population.

“Michael Bird is one of the preeminent public health practitioners in the country, and among the most knowledgeable about the special conditions that affect the health of American Indian communities,” said Mathuram Santosham , MD, MPH, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and professor of international health. “Mr. Bird also brings uncommon wisdom to his understanding of Native American health needs,” Dr. Santosham added.

Mr. Bird’s presentation is sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, which is a division of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The Center’s goal is to develop strategies and partnerships with tribes to raise the health and well-being of American Indians to the highest possible level.

The Center has implemented numerous programs to address health issues in the Native American population. A hallmark study undertaken by the Center in the early 1990s proved the efficacy of a new vaccine that has virtually eliminated pervasive death and disability from Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) - a bacterial disease that causes life-threatening meningitis. Current focus is on addressing pneumococcal disease, RSV, and Hepatitis A - all major threats to Indian youth, as well as to children in developing countries. The Center has also completed behavioral research and intervention projects to study the behavioral and environmental determinants of priority health problems in Native American populations, including suicide, alcohol abuse, and teen pregnancy.

Since 1996, the Center has administered an outreach service program for teen mothers, fathers, and their babies on the Navajo and White Mountain Apache reservations. The Center also partners with the NFL Players Association to administer the Native Vision Program to promote three major areas of well-being for participating children and families: healthy minds, healthy bodies, and healthy families.

In addition, the Center has numerous training opportunities, such as endowed scholarships at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, public health workshops taught on reservations, graduate-level distance education courses, and outreach for high school students.

Mr. Bird’s presentation is open to faculty, staff, students and guests of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham @ 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.