“All Of Us” conference looks to improve Native public health
June 16, 2017
Gila River Indian News
A local university and healthcare provider hosted a conference to improve the treatment of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples through patient specific care.
The University of Arizona and Banner Health hosted the regional American Indian and Alaskan Native dialogue conference called “All of Us,” a research program on precision medicine, that was held at the Wild Horse Pass Casino & Hotel on May 25-26.
The discussion was on how to bring patient care to underrepresented communities without sacrificing the quality of care.
Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis welcomed the gathering of researchers, clinicians and public health representatives for investing the time and effort to provide a conference that opens the door to partnership with institutions, such as U of A.
He said it is important for tribal communities to build relationships with universities like U of A that have a sincere investment in helping tribal communities combat health disparities.
“When [we] can look at innovative partnerships with institutions such as the University of Arizona…it is beneficial for both parties, it is beneficial for the tribes and for a great and proud institution like the University of Arizona,” said Lewis.
The conference is meant to bring together tribal leaders and partners to help stimulate dialogue with the U of A and Banner Health on what can be done to address health disparities.
Lifestyle, environment, and biological make-up can impact a person’s health according to data collected through the “All of Us” research program.
John Molina, conference co-chair and Corporate Compliance Officer at the Native Health Center in Phoenix, said the conference is about bringing together a dynamic lineup of speakers that can bring in their expertise in working in tribal communities and how that can translate into precision medicine.
Senior Vice President for Research Dr. Kimberly Espy, said the university appreciates the commitment of individuals at the regional and national healthcare level, and from advocacy organizations and researchers, to start a dialogue around what precision medicine means and how that can be translated to patient care for underrepresented minorities.
She said, according to a National Institutes of Health report, “Underrepresented minorities account for fewer than 10 percent of [those] enrolled in clinical trials.”
Espy said that participation is crucial in development of research that will lead to better treatment and therapy and the possibility of eradicating certain diseases.
With the stigma around research and clinical trials among Native communities, its understandable that there is a hesitancy to participate, which is why the people at U of A and Banner Health want to let Native people know the research is in mutual partnership and is not a one direction flow of information, but includes everyone from community members to tribal leadership.
Gov. Lewis said, the Gila River Healthcare Corporation addresses the health conditions and needs of tribal members.
Gov. Lewis said having a health care corporation allows GRIC to d improve the health of the people, which he said is all part of being a sovereign community.
“We are looking at the current health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer…so [we] are looking at these health conditions, and how [our] people can take control of their health,” he said.
He said that partnerships like the “All of Us,” research initiative adds more to the ever-growing effort to address health disparities among tribal nations.
Espy said that at the core of precision medicine is the opposite of the historic one size fits all approach, and that it is an effort to revolutionize health and treat diseases in underrepresented populations.
“Precision medicine considers participants as unique individuals and takes into account the multiple biologic, social and cultural factors that differentiate us in subtle ways,” said Espy, “Sure those difference start in our individual genes that not only establish a frame that effects our health, but is not only in the genes, its in other characteristics, sex, age, but more importantly precision medicine considers how our unique environments and lifestyles, which are shaped by our cultural heritage effect the prevention and prevent a disease.”