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American Indian health advocates can learn to develop multimedia health projects for rural communities

Health advocates in tribal communities often end up implementing health-related programs designed by people who live and work outside their communities. Yet American Indian health advocates often know best what services their communities need and, with technical training, can develop multimedia health care information projects to address these issues (e.g., teen pregnancy, alcoholism, and diabetes).

The Native Telehealth Outreach and Technical Assistance Program equipped and trained nine health advocates from a variety of backgrounds, including an HIV counselor, a registered nurse, and an elementary school teacher. The participants, who were coached by operational and technical mentors, learned about available health resources and had access to a state-of-the-art multimedia facility to develop their educational projects. Eighteen months after initial training, eight of the nine participants had developed projects, including an educational video on hepatitis C, an interactive CD-ROM for elementary school students on the effects of alcohol and other drugs on the body, an interactive CD-ROM sharing Native American insights and information on diabetes, and a Web site and brochure campaign on the diverse birth control methods available to the tribal community. These products were disseminated throughout the rural communities.

Although most participants successfully completed projects, a longer program timeframe would have helped them become more familiar with the new technologies, note Spero M. Manson, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Colorado Denver. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10854).

More details are available in "The Native Telehealth Outreach and Technical Assistance Program: A community-based approach to the development of multimedia-focused health care information," by Rhonda Wiegman Dick, M.A., C.N.E., Dr. Manson, Amy L. Hansen, B.A., and others, in American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research: The Journal of the National Center, 14(2), pp. 49-66, 2007.

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