NH Tribal Health Community at the Heart of Survey and Advocacy Efforts

November 6th, 2023 | News


To better understand Native individuals’ perspectives on health and wellness and the resources currently available to them, JSI New Hampshire (NH) collaborated with the University of New Hampshire and the Indigenous New Hampshire Collaborative Collective (INHCC) to conduct a comprehensive community survey.

The report on the survey’s findings sheds light on previously unexplored health issues Indigenous residents of New Hampshire encounter, fostering a deeper understanding of their experiences to inspire change. With 142 responses gathered, the survey team uncovered nuanced perspectives on health and wellness within New Hampshire’s Native community.

Survey participants identified mental health as the highest priority among seven key areas of wellness. The other areas were physical health, emotional well-being, social connections, spiritual well-being, cultural identity, and economic welfare.

Responses consistently highlighted the importance of food sovereignty with nearly half of the surveyed individuals stressing the importance of consuming Traditional foods, and utilizing Traditional medicines including sage, cedar, and sweet grass. While most respondents emphasized the critical role of Traditional medicines in health care, they also identified several barriers to accessing Traditional medicine and food. The most significant obstacle is a lack of knowledge, both among respondents and health care providers.

The report underscores the urgent need for co-creating integrated and holistic health care approaches and emphasizes recognizing disparities between Western and Indigenous health care paradigms. These findings align with assessments from a recent New Hampshire public health initiative known as “Project ECHO: Connecting Mental Health, Climate Justice, and Nature,” in which Indigenous perspectives were recognized as pivotal in reshaping systems to address health crises and post-COVID-19 stress.

The success of the project relied on collaboration and relationship-building. JSI partnered with the INHCC, the University of New Hampshire, the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki People, Dartmouth faculty members, and the HEARTH (Healing, Equity, and Resilience in Tribal Health) group at JSI, who provided expertise for data collection and analysis.

This project succeeded thanks to the collaborative relationships established between JSI, INHCC, and the Cowasuck Band. JSI consultant, Courtney Page, has actively engaged with the NH Commission on Native American Affairs since 2019. Together with JSI specialist Hannah Lessels, they collaborated with local Tribal leaders to create a land acknowledgment for the JSI NH office in 2019. Courtney joined the Indigenous NH Collaborative Collective in 2022, initially offering her consultant services as a volunteer. When funding became available through the University of NH, Courtney and JSI analyst Emma Geurts had the opportunity to work on a contract basis to implement the community survey and comprehensive report successfully.
By disseminating the project’s findings, JSI seeks to raise awareness about the health experiences and priorities of New Hampshire’s Indigenous residents.

Courtney and Emma Geurts presented the findings from this survey at the 2023 SHIFT Conference in September, showcasing the transformative power of community-centered approaches in health care research and advocacy.

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