At A Glance
About 200,000 Navajo Nation tribal residents live in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. Native Americans are more likely to have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity than other groups. Lack of access to healthy foods and knowledge of how to live a healthy lifestyle may contribute to their health problems. Partners In Health, the Community Outreach Patient Empowerment (COPE) Program, and coalition members provided 30 young people with the skills and resources to lead two reservation-wide conferences and several health-focused projects.
Public Health Challenge
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),Native American adults are twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to have diabetes, 50% more likely to have obesity, and more likely to have cardiovascular diseases. Navajo Nation, the largest federally recognized tribal nation, faces some of these health problems. Navajo Nation stretches across more than 27,000 square miles through parts of three states: Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, but only have 10 grocery stores according to a 2014 Diné Policy Institute report. Approximately 200,000 Navajos live on the Navajo Nation. In the Navajo Area, 1 in 5 adults have diabetes and it is estimated that 75,000 have prediabetes. In addition, more than 75% of households on the reservation experience some level of food insecurity—unable to get enough food due to a lack of money or access to food, according to a 2014 study.
Although many Navajo youth feel they can have a positive effect on the health of their communities, they are not equipped with the knowledge, skills, and resources to overcome high rates of diet-related illness. To help, COPE partnered with leadership in Navajo Nation to establish the Navajo Community Health Outreach (NCHO) Youth Leadership Program. The NCHO Program enrolled 30 Navajo young people across five Navajo Nation high schools. The young people participate in leadership workshops and learning activities to increase their knowledge of healthy foods while incorporating Navajo tradition and culture. The Navajo youth are then expected to lead a service project within their community.