During a health-assessment conversation with an elderly patient, the questioner asked, “When was the last time that you fell?” The patient, a man who had spent his life in education as a teacher, quietly sat without responding. The patient’s daughter explained that her father fell at home while getting out of the shower. The man could not get back up on his own and ended up staying on the ground, calling for help, until someone heard him nearly five hours later. This is a far too common reality for many elderly people, a reality that can have dangerous and possibly life-threatening repercussions.
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community has always strived to be health-conscious and health-forward. Understanding that an emphasis on injury prevention was necessary, the SRPMIC Department of Health and Human Services Environmental/Public Health sought to develop a comprehensive program to address these concerns. The Indian Health Service Tribal Injury Prevention Cooperative Agreement Program (TIPCAP) was the answer. This program was established to offer multi-year grant funding to tribal agencies through a competitive application process. Through this funding, the Community employed a full-time injury prevention coordinator.
That’s me; my name is Monte Yazzie, and it is my goal to develop programs founded on the most efficient, researched-based practices in injury prevention. I come from a background in physical therapy, and working in a clinic provided me with firsthand injury-rehabilitation experience. Understanding how an injury occurs and what the consequences are was a daily aspect of the job. A goal to understand how to prevent these injuries is what led me to further my education and start work with the Community. The Injury Prevention Program emphasizes three distinct areas of injury prevention: child passenger safety, seat belt use and unintentional falls.
Why injury prevention? Here are some facts. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 5 to 34; about 33,000 people die in vehicle accidents each year. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related death for adults over age 65; one in three individuals in this target demographic will experience a major fall during the course of a year.
Why injury prevention? Because a significant amount of research has displayed that public health programs and interventions play a significant role in decreasing injuries.
SRPMIC’s Injury Prevention Program has already started working toward these goals. We have introduced a Yoga Teacher Training course, in which Community members and SRPMIC employees can earn certification as yoga instructors. This will place qualified individuals out into the Community and offer a resource for the elderly to utilize yoga to increase strength and balance and attain overall improved health.
We are organizing interventions to increase seat belt use; look for educational classes and carseat-check events around the Community. We want to make sure that youth are equipped with properly fitted helmets and are provided bicycle skills assessments to promote safety while biking; be on the lookout for helmet classes and bike rodeo announcements. My hope is that with the success of this program, we can foster a collaborative spirit within the Community.
Growth takes time. What started with an idea, a seed, to be a healthier/more injury-aware people will grow over time into a community of individuals, the roots, which will distribute the learned health benefits to the Community. The hope is that we can foster advocates within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the branches, who will continue to practice and share the health advantages associated with injury prevention. This is the goal, and through this unique program I believe that the health disparities that have afflicted the Native American community will continue to decrease and that the health status of the people today and in the future will be positively impacted.
I can be reached at (480) 362-7542 or by email at monte.yazzie@SRPMIC-nsn.gov.