Medical Students Sent To American Indian Families To Teach Health Awareness

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More than two dozen medical students from around the world on Sundayconcluded their participation in the Native Health Initiative program,in which they planned wellness centers, worked in American Indianhospices and undertook other efforts to address American Indian healthissues, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.

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Thefive-week program began in 2005 and has expanded from 10 volunteers to26 this year. Five tribes participated this year, up from only oneduring the program's first year. Most of the participating medicalstudents spend the summer living with American Indian families to learnabout their culture and what makes American Indians more susceptible tocertain diseases. The students teach the families about propernutrition, exercise and disease prevention. The program is the "onlyone in the country that engages medical students in [American] Indiancommunities rather than simply cycling students through clinics" inorder to "forge a connection" between American Indians and conventionalphysicians, according to the News & Observer.

Accordingto Anthony Fleg, who founded the initiative, North Carolina is home tothe largest American Indian population east of the Mississippi, andmany of the state's tribes are not recognized by the government, whichlimits their access to public resources. Fleg said, "American Indianslive sicker and they die younger. It's unjust," adding, "But in theeyes of many folks, American Indians are not even on the radar."

Canadianmedical student Leah Genge said, "The barriers are not as obvious asyou think they are. Services can be available, but if we're notculturally sensitive, then they might as well not be there" (Collins,Raleigh News & Observer, 8/6).
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