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Native American Heritage Month and the Center for American Indian Health

Photos by Ed Cunicelli

The Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health “works in partnership with American Indian and Alaska Native communities to improve the health status, self-sufficiency, and health leadership of Native people.” The Center comes at these issues of health and well-being from three primary vantage points: behavioral health programs, training programs and infectious disease prevention studies.

November is Native American Heritage Month, and the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, in partnership with the Bloomberg American Health Initiative is hosting Water Is Life, featuring internationally-known Native leaders in environmental justice on Monday, November 20 from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m.



At a Glance: A Sampling of the Center for American Indian Health's Work and Programs


Behavioral Health

NativeVision is a summer camp and after-school program with a powerful focus: Take care of your body and stay in school. As one of the flagship programs at the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health (CAIH), NativeVision addresses daunting public health issues facing kids living on reservations.



A sudden cut in funding from the Office of Adolescent Health has imperiled the Center's work: “The Center for American Indian Health at Johns Hopkins University fears that, without the grants, researchers there will not have a large enough sample of teens for a rigorous appraisal of a teen pregnancy prevention program for American Indian youth in Arizona, assistant scientist Lauren Tingey said. The program, which is now seeking private funding, just finished serving its 400th family this summer, and the goal was to serve 600.” - US News and World Report

Family Spirit is an evidence-based, culturally tailored home-visiting program of the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health to promote optimal health and wellbeing for parents and their children. 

In the program I work in, Family Spirit, we do this in part by restoring cultural knowledge – the unique way Native American cultures nurture babies – that has been lost over generations of historical trauma and its manifestations, including extreme poverty, substance abuse, low education attainment and hopelessness. In tribal communities in South Dakota and across the country, we combine what is distinctive in our culture with what is universal to positive parenting – ways to communicate with young children that help them to develop language skills, for example, and how to deal with the many challenges of toddlerhood in ways that meet the needs of both parent and child. - Crystal Kee, Steamboat, Ariz.

"Home visits help strengthen maternal, infant health in Native American communities," The Hub, September 25, 2017

Watch Charmayne's Family Spirit Story


Training Programs

The overarching purpose of this public health certificate program is to promote participants’ capacity to address American Indian population health disparities through multidisciplinary public health approaches and culturally competent strategies. The certificate program examines four quadrants of influence: physical, behavioral, political, and spiritual/emotional, which, in balance, comprise the sphere of public health for American Indian communities.

Annie Moon is a Navajo and the first in her family to obtain a bachelor's degree. She graduated with an MPH in 2015 with the support of the the training program at the Center.  

Watch Annie's Story


Infectious Disease Prevention Studies

The Evaluating Maternal Immunization (EMI) Study wants to understand how American Indian women and other community stakeholders feel about vaccines in pregnancy (also called ‘maternal immunization’), so that we may address any concerns or questions and increase awareness about these important interventions.

For more than 20 years, we have helped tribes quantify the burden of disease caused by pneumococcus, Hib and other bacteria, and monitor the impact of intervention strategies. Our disease surveillance focuses on diseases that are of high concern to American Indian people. We work with over 20 hospitals and laboratories that serve the Navajo and White Mountain Apache reservations to monitor invasive diseases. This is a two-decade long surveillance project that provides the backbone for many efforts such as studies to evaluate the impact of childhood vaccines. 

 See More: Part of JHSPH's five-part Instagram series

"I'm comfortable being a mom. I love being a mom. I love my kids, and I love my home," Charmayne says. Family Spirit and Crystal Kee helped restore her confidence and helped her find the joys in motherhood, rather than the sorrows. Her family is just one example of the many people that this #JHSPH Center for American Indian Health program has impacted. "My husband and I, we're planning on building a home, we're going to get a horse," Charmayne says. She's excited for what's to come, thanks to the help she's received. This is part five of five. For more information on Family Spirit or Charmayne's story, visit the link in our bio.

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