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Center for American Indian Health
415 N. Washington Street
4th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21231
phone: (410) 955-6931
toll free: 1-800-509-8456
fax: (410) 955-2010

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About CAIH

History and Accomplishments

In 1980, Dr. Mathu Santosham, a young Johns Hopkins pediatrician, moved with his wife and two young children to the White Mountain Apache Reservation. He meant to stay one year to help Johns Hopkins colleagues launch a campaign to prevent high rates of preventable childhood deaths from diarrhea. Read More

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Historic Milestones

  • Prevention of Infant Deaths from Diarrhea
    In the late 1970s, widespread diarrheal disease was killing Indian infants at rates seven times the national average. In early 1980s, working with the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Mathuram Santosham, MD, MPH, introduced Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT), a simple electrolyte solution--now commonly known as "Pedialyte", to prevent deaths and hospitalization from dehydration. Native outreach workers were trained to make home visits to teach parents proper use of ORT. Rates of diarrheal deaths among the participating tribes (Apache and Navajo) dropped virtually to zero.
  • Eradication of Hib Disease and Bacterial Meningitis
    A hallmark study undertaken by the Center in the early 1990s proved the efficacy of a new vaccine that has virtually eliminated widespread death and disability from Haemophilus Influenzae tybe b (Hib) a bacterial disease that causes life-threatening meningitis. Deaths and disease from Hib were first eradicated from the White Mountain Apache and Navajo populations. This vaccine is now promoted for use throughout the U.S. and the world.
  • Wiping Out Pneumococcal Disease
    A large-scale vaccine trial in the late 1990s marked the advent of a highly effective prevention tool for Streptococcus pneumoniae, a bacterial pathogen and leading cause of pneumonia, meningitis and middle ear infections. Routine, community-wide use of pneumococcal vaccine for children has had a dramatic impact on the epidemiology of pneumococcal disease.
  • Promoting Youth Development
    Since 1996, the Center has served more than 10,000 youth and 25,000 community members from tribes across the country through Native Vision, a youth development program that promotes healthy lifestyles, fitness, education, leadership and community service. This program is uniquely served by a corps of professional athlete volunteers organized by our partners at the NFL Players Association. For more information, go to www.nativevision.org.
  • Family Spirit: Child Care Education and Outreach for Teen Parents
    Since 1998, the Center has designed a home-based outreach program for the youngest most vulnerable families on three reservations in the Southwest, promoting a healthy start for their children and positive parenting and life outcomes for young mothers and fathers. Because early childhood development is the bedrock for lifetime health, this work is essential to securing the future for Indian peoples. Recent outcome data showing improvement in parents' childcare knowledge, mental health and children's social and behavioral outcomes are propelling efforts for program replication in other Native communities across the U.S.
  • Training American Indian Health Professionals and Scholars
    Since 2001, we have provided graduate training public health science and practice at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health to more than 150 Native scholars. We have also funded and mentored 2 Native doctoral students, 2 Native nursing students and 5 public health graduates at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.  Professional training is a major priority for the Center, as the paucity of degreed American Indian health care providers continues to cripple Indian communities' response to their own health issues.
  • Stopping Youth Suicide
    The shock of a single youth suicide sends waves of grief and despair across families and communities. American Indian communities suffer from the highest rates of youth suicide in the coutry. Since 2004, the Center has trained tribal members to screen and refer suicidal youth to crisis care, and launched the development of innovative community-based prevention interventions. This work will help pioneer community-based models for promoting mental health in communities with inadequate mental health resources across the globe.
  • Preventing RSV Disease
    Since 2004, we have worked with Southwestern tribes to show that a new antibody against RSV, a life-threatening respiratory illness for Native Americans and other children in the U.S. and around the world, reduced hospitalizations for RSV among the Navajo and Apache babies by 83%. We are now studying the impact of this same antibody on preventing asthma in childhood. RSV is one of the major causes of the estimated 1.7 million childhood deaths from pneumonia every year around the globe. The significance of our continued findings will impact children and families all over the world.
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