National Academy of Medicine

Connecting Culture, Land, and Family to Health: Reflections on a Workshop: Advancing Health Equity for Native American Youth

By Mildred Thompson
August 12, 2014 | Commentary

An elder’s blessing began the workshop hosted by the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) Roundtable on the Promotion of Health Equity and the Elimination of Health Disparities, and it was critical in grounding the entire day. While we did not know the meaning of his words, spoken with passion and authority, the reverence and respect of the elder-leader were undeniable. It opened us all up to new possibilities a willingness to sit, listen and learn. I felt an unusual sense of collective humility in the room, even among the most scholarly presenters. I was ready to begin, eager to know more about the topic that we began focusing on 2 years ago in Seattle at an earlier workshop.

The goal of that first workshop was to deepen our understanding of the unique health inequities within Native populations and to identify what was making a difference. We convened a rich array of Native people from across North America, including representatives from Hawaii, various Pacific islands, and Alaska; the majority of participants in the room were from native populations. While we learned a lot and were proud to have facilitated a place where colleagues could meet, network, and hear about strategies, programs, research, and policies that seem to be gaining traction, there was a noticeable gap it was clear that we needed to dive deeper into the unique challenges faced by Native youth. We wanted to know about their assets and resilience.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.