REACHING CHILDREN IN ARIZONA’S INDIAN COMMUNITIES
Arizona is home to 22 federally-recognized tribes, representing 5.5% of the state’s population, and is the 3rd largest population of American Indians in the United States.
American Indian children represent the future of each tribe, making their health and well-being an utmost priority. The University of Arizona is partnering with professionals and volunteers from 7 sovereign tribal nations who know firsthand the health challenges facing their youth.
American Indian Health Disparities
The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the detrimental effects of American Indian health disparities as never before. Persons with obesity and type 2 diabetes experienced greater risk, more severe illness and need for hospitalization due to COVID-19.
This underscores the urgent need for primary prevention, especially among American Indian youth who are disproportionately affected by health disparities. The rate of obesity in American Indian children is almost twice as high as that of children from other racial and ethnic groups. In one study, the rates of newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes among American Indian youth, ages 10 – 19, was 3 to 10 times higher than peers from other racial and ethnic groups. We have a solution!
Our Goal: Promote healthy lifestyle among American Indian families
THE AMERICAN INDIAN YOUTH WELLNESS CAMP
The American Indian Youth Wellness Camp is a community-led, family-focused intervention that aims to increase healthy lifestyle among American Indian youth, ages 10 - 15. Youth attend an intensive weeklong Camp program participating in nutrition education, experiential learning, exercise and fitness training, cultural activities and games, and mind-body skills building to promote healthy eating habits, introduce ways to make exercise fun, consistent and habitual, and foster self-efficacy and resiliency.
Tribal culture is at the heart of our program, emphasizing American Indian values, beliefs, traditions, roles, and responsibilities as an integral part of health and wellness. Parent involvement is essential. This year, we are testing the effectiveness of a 6-month follow-up program targeting parents and the entire family to help youth sustain gains made in Camp and maintain healthy behaviors at home and for a lifetime.
Healthy Lifestyle Outcome Measures
Our Camp program is supported by evidence! We collect health and behavior measures a few days before and at the start of Camp to identify areas in need of change such as a diet missing fruits and vegetables and limited physical activity. At the end of Camp, we re-assess and compare measures collected to identify improvements in health indicators, diet, activity, attitudes and behaviors. By documenting outcomes, the University and its tribal partners can replicate the program with other tribal communities as part of their larger community-based health initiatives.
Previous Accomplishments Show We Make a Difference!
Community Engagement and Training
The Camp Team includes professionals and volunteers from 7 distinct sovereign tribal nations, primarily from Arizona. Team members include physicians, nurses, registered dietitians, health promotions personnel, fitness and wellness instructors, and youth counselors from tribal health departments. Tribal advisors are involved with camp program planning, recruitment, and local public relations including newsletter articles and radio updates. Over 200 tribal members have received training in the development, implementation and evaluation of our community-level behavioral intervention.
American Indian undergraduate students attending the University of Arizona serve in Camp internships. Through their participation, students receive training in community-based participatory research methods and learn the role of tribal sovereignty in collaborative research. As a result, students gain valuable skills that support their studies and career goals in the health professions.
Food Insecurity is a Link to Poor Health in American Indians
A healthy diet is a key component of healthy lifestyle. Food insecurity is just one of a number of environmental and socioeconomic stressors that contribute to health disparities for American Indian youth. These include, but are not limited to historical trauma, chronic poverty, inadequate housing, and limited access to affordable, nutritious foods.
Many Arizona reservations are food deserts where some tribal members must travel up to 100 miles or more to reach a grocery store. Lockdowns on reservations due to COVID-19 have increased food insecurity for many American Indian families. So this year, we are also seeking funds to supply food boxes with staples such as beans, nut butters and canned goods to families running short of food.
YOUR SUPPORT HELPS MAKE OUR WORK POSSIBLE
Your contribution is more important than ever! You can help secure a healthy future for American Indian children, families and communities. Please support the American Indian Youth Wellness Camp today! Our Camp program does not generate revenue from participants. We depend on generous individuals, like you, to help a kid go to Camp. Please give what you can. Whatever your giving level, every contribution is appreciated!
SPREAD THE WORD! TELL OTHER PEOPLE ABOUT OUR PROGRAM
Share your support for our camp on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or by emailing our links:
YOU CAN ALSO DONATE BY SENDING A CHECK
Make your check or money order payable to: University of Arizona Foundation. Be sure to write FCM: Youth Wellness Initiative on the memo section.
Mail to: The University of Arizona Foundation
For the benefit of the Wellness Camp
PO Box 210109
Tucson, AZ 85721 - 0109