This August, NW HERON and IREACH team members were fortunate to have the rare opportunity – mid-pandemic – to attend and present findings at the 23rd Annual National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) Conference in Reno. Safely vaccinated, masked, and distanced, the team was able to immerse themselves in the greater community, sharing and connecting around the topic of aging in Indian Country.
In partnership with NICOA, the team collected data exploring barriers and facilitators to Native participation in Alzheimer’s disease research. This project is led by NW HERON Director Patrik Johansson, MD, MPH, Associate Professor in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine’s Department of Medical Education at Washington State University, in association with the Native Research and Resource Core of the University of Washington’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC).
To engage Tribal conference participants, the NW HERON team manned a booth, hosted a lunch for Elders from Washington state who attended the conference, and held 8 separate listening sessions. Preliminary themes that emerged from the Alzheimer’s disease sessions include the importance of allowing participants to select among research activities (which can entail MRI, blood and saliva tests, and lumbar puncture), honoring the belief that no body part should exist beyond death, promoting community-based education to raise dementia awareness, and educating researchers about traditional medicine and prayer practices used to complement Western medicine.
In addition to conducting and presenting research on cognitive impairment, the team also collected data on lung cancer screening and on COVID-19’s impact on Tribal elders; assisted Cole Allick – PhD student in Indigenous studies and member of NW HERON – in gathering data for his dissertation project; and presented at a youth panel discussion.
The NW HERON team is incredibly grateful they were able to attend the conference in person and returned with a renewed sense of purpose and energy. Being immersed in the community served as a great reminder as to why we do what we do!