Carolina will use grant from Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to promote healthy lifestyles among North Carolina Native communities

The American Indian Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will use a $386,082 grant from the Winston-Salem-based Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust to strengthen programming aimed at preventing obesity and chronic disease among the state’s Native communities.

The grant will support the Healthy Native North Carolinians Network, a center initiative that leverages common goals and resources to promote “Healthy Eating and Active Living” (HEAL) practices in North Carolina’s tribes and urban Indian organizations.

“The American Indian Center is excited to continue the Healthy Native North Carolinians Network,” said Amy Locklear Hertel, director of the American Indian Center. “This grant enables the center and our Native community partners to impact tribal HEAL policies, family lifestyle choices and cultural revitalization.

“Also, for this new grant cycle we have added a student internship element. Native high school and college student interns will be placed with tribal communities to implement and evaluate the tribally self-determined efforts. We are eager to merge student and community engagement with engaged scholarship.”

Among the enhancements to HNNC will be facility renovations that foster physical activity and play, and the development of walking trails. According to Hertel, the funding will enable HNNC to reach 65,000 Native people.

The grant builds on previous support from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust for HNNC, which launched in 2011. HNNC has spurred numerous HEAL initiatives, from tribal Zumba classes to community gardens. In the Coharie tribe alone, more than 10,000 pounds of vegetables were distributed to community members over the past year.

“A transition is occurring in my community, attitudes are changing and healthier choices are being made,” said Greg Jacobs, tribal administrator for the Coharie tribe. “There is a greater awareness of health problems affecting Native people and communities are eager to do something about it as a tribe and as individuals.”

Native people in the U.S. experience significantly worse health outcomes than the country’s white population. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Indians 18 years of age and older are two times more likely to develop diabetes than their non-Hispanic white counterparts (16.3 percent compared to 7.6 percent). Additionally, a recent report from the State Center for Health Statistics and Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities shows that Natives living in North Carolina also suffer from poor health compared to Caucasians in the state, particularly with heart disease and stroke.

“We are thrilled to offer both human and financial capital to our Native communities partners, which will address American Indian health disparities in the state and support tribal efforts to improve access to healthy foods and active living in a culturally relevant and self-determined manner,” said Hertel. “The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust supports tribal self-determination and we are pleased to have them as a partner in this effort.”

Published July 25, 2016.