Newswise – UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences (SMHS) has received a five-year award totaling more than $ 10 million from the National Institutes of Health for developing a research center on indigenous trauma and resilience.

According to Dr. Don Warne, director of the school’s INMED (Indians Into Medicine) programs and public health programs, the research center’s goal will be to examine the impact of historical and unresolved trauma on health inequalities in Native American and Alaskan populations.

“Historically, most of the health research among indigenous peoples has used a disparity and deficit model,” said Warne. “It’s important to understand and quantify differences. However, indigenous peoples also have unique cultural strengths that affect health. “

For example, Warne said the poor health outcomes that result from childhood trauma call for a holistic approach to healing that may include increased exposure to indigenous stories, ceremonies and food, all in the broader Native American definition of “medicine.”

“These aspects of healing have not been adequately studied,” he said.

The data suggest that the need for such a center is great. Indians in North Dakota and the region suffer from significant health differences compared to the non-native population. Much of this is related to historical trauma, negative childhood experiences, forced boarding school attendance, social marginalization, and toxic stress. For example, on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, life expectancy is lower than anywhere in the western hemisphere, with the exception of Haiti.

“We need to build the evidence base for culturally relevant interventions to improve health outcomes, which can result in our communities being given more resources to implement effective health programs,” added Warne, an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe in Pine Ridge, SD . The other focus of this program will be to provide research mentoring to the early career faculty and establish them as independent investigators. This will create ripple effects in terms of additional grants, studies, resources and programs through AND. “

The project, managed by Warne and his team, also includes resources to launch the first SMHS-based clinical trial in school history. The study is being conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (UDSA) and the federally funded Human Nutrition & Research Center (HNRC) in Grand Forks.

“Indigenous communities deserve representation not only in research as leaders and participants, but also in developing relevant research questions that strengthen the strengths of the community while at the same time getting to the heart of what is essential in the communities,” added Dr. Nicole Redvers, Assistant Professor in the SMHS Family and Community Medicine Department and a member of Deninu Kué First Nation who will lead the process. “I am humble and proud of the support we received from the school, our partners and faculty mentors at UND in enabling me to lead the first clinical trial to be conducted at SMHS. I am all the more proud that this clinical study examines a traditional indigenous food that has long been used for healing in indigenous communities. “

The five-year grant can be extended twice for a possible grant period of 15 years. Warne said the next steps for the team are to set up the infrastructure to support the research projects, including implementing the administrative core, and recruiting several new staff and faculty members to carry out community engagement and outreach. The centre’s research priorities will be at the community level and will focus on the AND team’s long history of community engagement.

“We need to understand the implications of these issues and, more importantly, understand the best ways to address these challenges and improve health outcomes,” concluded Warne. “The results of this research can potentially be applied to other marginalized populations. Over time, improved health leads to lower health care costs and an improved quality of life. “

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