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Posted: October 19, 2020

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NIHB Closes National Tribal Health Conferencewith Messages of Community, Self-Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON, DC—October 16, 2020—The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) concluded its annual National Tribal Health Conference today with a panel discussion on the behavioral health that honed in on the human effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and how American Indians and Alaska Natives are dealing with the impacts of the social changes and the importance of self-care and community.

“Native people are by nature social beings and our communities are close-knit. Not being able to visit our family and friends at social gatherings because of COVID-19 has been difficult for our people. Not being able to follow our traditional practices and ceremonies when relatives pass away has been particularly hard. Being isolated from our loved ones, uncertainty with a job or juggling online school and childcare are just a few scenarios of stressful situations that our people are experiencing. Some people are coping better than others, but the bottom line is we all need to take care of ourselves and each other during this time of uncertainty,” said NIHB CEO Stacy A. Bohlen. “Reach out to elders, make sure they have food and supplies. Check in with neighbors and relatives. Talk with children. History has proven that our people are resilient and I am confident that with the strength within Indian Country – the Tribal leaders, health professionals, traditional healers – we can overcome, persevere and move forward on a path to protect all generations.”

Clinton Alexander, Interim Director of Behavioral Health at White Earth Tribal Health, moderated the behavioral health panel with guests Dr. Mary Owen, President of the Association of American Indian Physicians and Lori Jump, Director of StrongHearts Native Helpline. All panelists agreed that spending time away from the screen and COVID-19 news is helpful for self-care. They recommended that people instead use technology to engage with family members and also to spend time outdoors gathering medicines, picking berries or fishing. All are ways to reconnect with oneself and culture while maintaining safe, social distance.

Conference attendees also heard from members of the media on a panel that focused on COVID-19 coverage in Indian Country and the importance that the media – Tribal and mainstream – play in public education and public opinion. Indian Country Today Editor Mark Trahant, Cronkite NewsDirector of the Southwest Health Reporting Initiative Pauline Arrillaga and POLITICO Health Reporter Adam Cancryn agreed that the stories within Tribal communities are important to tell and that access to credible COVID-19 data is imperative to their reporting.

“The media plays an integral role in our daily lives. It influences our thinking and the way we see the world and the people in it. Over the past nine months the media has provided updates on the coronavirus pandemic and highlighted the disproportionate impact it has had on our people from national news about the Navajo Nation cases to grassroots relief efforts. We need the media to help tell our stories the right way – with balance and respect,” said Bohlen.

Learn more about NIHB’s work at: www.nihb.org.

Social media information:
  • Facebook: /NIHB1972
  • Twitter: @NIHB1
  • Instagram: @NIHB1
  • Hashtags: #NIHB #NTHC2020 #healthytribalcommunities #IndianCountry #Nativehealth #ReauthorizeSDPI #ActofLove #WalkwithNIHB

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National Indian Health Board Mission Statement
Established by the Tribes to advocate as the united voice of federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, NIHB seeks to reinforce Tribal sovereignty, strengthen Tribal health systems, secure resources, and build capacity to achieve the highest level of health and well-being for our People.
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