NWIC Building Health Partnerships

Sep 15th, 1999 | By | Category: 11-1: 10th Anniversary Issue, Tribal College News

Northwest Indian College (NWIC) has focused upon improving nutrition and increasing physical activity in its efforts to make American Indian people healthier in the Northwest. In partnership with several federal agencies, regional health organizations, and educational institutions, NWIC is developing comprehensive community-based health education, training, and academic programs. Located in Bellingham, Wash., NWIC serves tribes in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho through its distance learning network. After seeing the results of a survey on tribal interests, the Regional Indian Health Board agreed to work with the college to provide for the training needs of those tribes.

The Executive Order issued by President Bill Clinton in October 1996 has resulted in significant assistance from federal departments in the Northwest, according to Barbara Roberts, MPH, a Lummi tribal member who chairs the NWIC Division for Health , Humanities, and Social Sciences. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regional office is collaborating with the college, including providing technical assistance and guest lecturers at the college.

Last June, NWIC and Salish Kootenai College (SKC) co-sponsored a conference on nutrition and physical activity in Spokane along with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, American Diabetes Association, Portland Area Diabetes Program, and the Indian Health Service. NWIC and SKC are working together to host a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and tribal college workshop in September on cooperative extension grants and resources. With a Nutrition Challenge Grant from the USDA, the college also is developing a community-based Nutrition Assistant program, which incorporates tribally specific cultural materials in the courses.

Special grants have been received for other community programs, including a Walking Program to increase the physical activity of individuals at risk for diabetes. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has provided the Lummi Tribe with funds to support the canoe culture as a healthy physical activity. Northwest Indian College provides physical education courses in Indian Canoe Racing, and NWIC and the University of Washington work with the Lummi to provide health-related degrees.

Through its continuing education program, the college provides training to certify fitness instructors and to host annual wellness conferences. One of their annual conferences is designed for preventing alcohol and substance abuse by youth. It is sponsored by local businesses. For more information about these programs, contact Barbara Roberts, division chair of health, at NWIC (360) 676-2772.


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