MEDIA CONTACT: Susan Feinberg
FAU Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing Professor Improves the Health and Well-Being of Cherokee Youth in Summer Camp
BOCA RATON, FL (July 24, 2007) - Native American children today suffer disproportionately from diabetes, injuries and other health problems. The stress of coping with poverty, and social and geographic isolation, and trying to fit into two worlds can lead to alcoholism, substance abuse and HIV/AIDs risk.
John Lowe, RN, PhD, professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing, and one of only 13 doctoral-prepared Native American nurses in the nation, has developed a unique program to improve the health and well-being of Cherokee youth that fuses contemporary health care with Cherokee culture, traditions and values.
For the past two summers, Lowe and his class of senior nursing students have volunteered with children ages 9-12 at the Healthy Nations Summer Camp at the Cherokee nation in Oklahoma. The camp, which is sponsored by the Cherokee Nation, is dedicated to promoting physical fitness, health and wellness, and teaching children how to make healthy choices.
“I wanted to create an intervention that would get to the heart of critical issues our Cherokee youth are facing, such as diabetes, obesity and substance abuse, and allows the students to practice the Nursing as Caring theory that I teach at FAU,” said Lowe.
During the week-long camp, Lowe’s students, who are registered nurses, live with the children, teach classes on nutrition and diabetes, and tobacco use prevention, and supervise them in variety of physical activities. To strengthen Cherokee identity and honor their traditions, the nursing students and children are organized into “clans,” each with a special name selected by the children. The campers attend Cherokee language classes that emphasize the importance of family and caring, and play traditional Cherokee games.
It’s an enriching experience for the young campers to meet the nursing students, many of whom are of international origin and hail from countries such as Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica. “The children kept touching and asking about my hair, which I wear in dreadlocks,” said Vivian McLeggon, a nursing student and native of Jamaica. “I explained to them that I do my hair like Bob Marley, the reggae musician.”
The nursing students enjoyed a rare opportunity to observe and participate in Cherokee traditions, such as powwows and the traditional stomp dance.
The visits of the nursing students give the children a message of hope. “It shows them that people from Florida and all over the world care enough to come to them in Oklahoma and talk to them about healthy living,” said Lowe.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 4.1 million Indians living in the United States. Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions among Native Americans. Among Native Americans and Alaska Natives receiving care from the Indian Health Service, 14.5 percent have diabetes. The National Institutes of Health reports that unintentional and intentional injuries pose a particular threat to Native American and Alaska Native children, whose rates of injury are about 2.5 times that of all U.S. children.
Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing is committed to nurturing the wholeness of persons and environment through caring.