By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
New research has found that health and development may be affected and formulated even earlier in a person’s life than previously thought. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has received a grant that will help Cherokee children and families through the use of home visits.
“The whole purpose of the grant is to improve health disparities,” Vickie Bradley, EBCI Deputy Health Officer, told a group gathered for a Home Visitation Grant Kickoff Stakeholders Meeting on Thursday, Jan. 12.
“We are very excited,” she said of the grant which came from the Administration of Child and Families (ACF) and the Health Resource Service Administration (HRSA). “This is something we have been talking about here in Cherokee for many years.”
The Tribe is one of 19 nationally to enter the Tribal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.
The first year of the five-year grant will be planning in nature and will involve completing interviews and establishing a needs assessment of the community. The EBCI Home Visitation Program Needs Assessment Team has been established and includes Sheena Kanott, Karrie Joseph, Martha Salyers and Karen Schlanger.
“This is huge,” said Kanott who is also the director Cherokee Choices. “We’ve been so excited about this grant.”
Dr. Ann Bullock, MD, IHS Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention, has worked with the Tribe for 21 years in various medical capacities. “Even ten years ago, there were very few doing the work that you’re doing now,” she told the crowd as she presented a short program entitled “Getting to the Roots of Health Disparities: Home Visiting”.
Dr. Bullock related that adverse childhood experiences, known as ACEs, have a large impact on a person’s development and health. There are eight ACEs that most researchers based their clinical studies on including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse; mentally ill, substance abusing, incarcerated family member; seeing mother beaten; and parents divorced or separated.
She related that according to a study of seven tribes in the Southwest, a total of 86 percent of those polled reported at least one ACE and 33 percent reported four or more. A similar study involving non-native children revealed that only 6 percent reported four or more ACEs.
Dr. Bullock said the physical outcomes of ACEs are programmed into the body. “It’s not inevitable, but it certainly stacks the cards against that child.”
She encouraged each health provider present at Thursday’s meeting to think about the average ACE score of the children they serve. “We have to break the cycles, change the patterns and find new ways.”
Dr. Bullock said home visits have proven to help lessen these health disparities. “If home visiting were a medication, it would be malpractice not to provide it.”