Community Health & Wellness Survey Searches for Data

The Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center has a lofty goal, but it needs community input to be successful.

“We want to make our community healthier and we want to make our health center better,” said Cordelia Abel-Johnson, community health supervisor and the project site coordinator. “We need to know what direction to take, to develop, and improve what we’re doing,”

Selected staff of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony are planning to evaluate existing
programs related to health and wellness to determine the needs for new or more
services, and figure out how to design new programs or revamp existing ones.

Called the “RSIC Community Health Assessment,” a vital step in a five year project is to survey those living on the downtown Colony and in Hungry Valley about healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Such surveys are commonly used research tools which collect data. The survey will
pinpoint the characteristics, behaviors, or opinions of about 350 residents whom are 18-years-old or older.

The multiple choice survey is made up of 35 multiple choice questions centered on seven community health and wellness prevention areas.  Those areas include: commercial tobacco use, access to healthy food and beverages, promotion of healthy food and beverages, breastfeeding, physical activity, health literacy and team-based care.

“The assessment will provide a snapshot of the health status of our community,” Abel-Johnson said.  “We can use the assessment to build upon what is already known and improve individual community members understanding of our community health issues.”
CDC’s Response

In 2014, the National Center for Chronic Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created the Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country (GHWIC) program.

Funded by the (CDC) and the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, the Community Health Assessment will include a written report which will outline the health and wellness needs
of the community.

GHWIC supports a coordinated, holistic approach to healthy living and chronic disease
prevention and reinforces the work already under way in Indian Country to make healthy choices and life ways easier for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Why Surveys?
The surveys will be given out at different events and at information tables. For example, community members can complete the survey during commodities distribution at the RSIC Senior Center on the third Tuesday of the month, or Monday through Thursday
during the senior lunch program.  Head Start parents will be given the survey during parent meetings, while the Tribal Court Wellness Program will be a point of distribution, too.  Of course, the survey will be available at an information table at the RSTHC.

“In order to effectively identify, plan, and implement needed policy, systems and environmental changes, tribal communities need to assess the current policy landscape and monitor changes over time,” said Dr. Ursula E. Bauer, Director of the CDC. “As the CDC collaborates with tribal communities on the development and implications of policy, systems, and environmental change strategies, our important CHANGE Action Guide offers communities a valuable tool in our efforts to promote health and prevent disease.”

The RSIC Community Health Assessment Coalition has been using the Tribal Health Assessment Toolkit from ITCA and the CDC’s CHANGE Action Guide to carefully outline its plan not just to assess the community, but to determine how to use the results in the most effective manner.

“This really will be a revealing project which could yield vitally important and impactful information,” said RSIC Planner and coalition member Scott Nebesky.  “The baseline data that we collect along with the evaluation of current programing could profoundly change the services provided to the RSIC community.”

Nebesky, whose department is responsible for a routine demographic survey / census
of all community members, believes the Community Health Assessment methodology will be helpful for future planning, too.

Furthermore, the Community Health survey will reveal if additional resources are
needed to meet the needs of a certain segments of the patient care, e.g., diabetes prevention services or the availability of cardiovascular specialists, more pediatrics programs or geriatric care.

“We will know if what we are currently doing is effective, but if we need to do more of the same to assist greater numbers of the community,” Nebesky said.

The CDC recognizes that with over 560 American Indians and Alaska Natives tribes, indigenous people are extremely diverse, with unique cultures, languages, histories, arts, and rituals. Yet all tribes share a deep connection to life ways, usually connected to nature, which can sustain health and wellness and even though Native peoples’ traditional ways of life have been compromised by the United States Federal Government, now for nearly three hundred years, American Indians and Alaska Natives have persevered and preserved much of their cultures.

However, for decades, poorer health, inferior social outcomes, and shortened life expectancies are a reality for many tribes when compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

In response, the CDC has been working with tribes, villages, tribal organizations, and tribal epidemiology centers to promote health, prevent disease, reduce health disparities, and strengthen connections to culture and life ways that improve health and wellness.

Public Health Problem 
Across their lifespan, American Indians and Alaska Natives have higher rates
of disease, injury, and premature death than other racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

For example, American Indian and Alaska Native adults:
▪Have a higher prevalence
of obesity than their white
counterparts (34 percent vs. 23 percent for men and 36 percent vs. 21 percent for women).
▪Are twice as likely to have diagnosed diabetes (16 percent vs. 7 percent).
▪Are more likely to be current smokers (29.2 percent vs. 18.2 percent).

Rates of death due to stroke and heart disease are higher among American Indians and Alaska Natives than among members of other racial and ethnic groups. American Indian women are also nearly twice as likely as white women to die from cervical cancer.

Many Native populations are affected by poverty, unemployment, poor housing, and low education, among other issues. These historical afflictions are often associated with poor health behaviors and disease management, and they drive much of the excess burden
of diseases and premature death. Nonetheless, many chronic diseases can be
prevented or mitigated by culturally relevant, community-driven policies, systems, and environmental improvements that support healthy choices and behaviors.

The RSIC Community Health Assessment will determine where our leadership should focus its efforts.

The RSIC Community Health & Wellness Coalition is made up of staff from the health
center, planning, senior center, education, court services and public relations.

For more information, please contact Cordelia Abel-Johnson at (775)329-5162 or at cabel-johnson@rsicclinic.org .