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WSU study finds Native elders are healthier with community support

Courtesy of Marimn Health
Courtesy of Marimn Health
The study finds that Native elders do better physically when they regularly access health care at places like Benewah Medical Center.

The research draws data from a multi-year Native health research project.

Washington State University researchers have found Native American elders do better physically when they have good community support systems around them.

The research drew upon results from a multi-year health study of Native people from around the country. It found older Natives who were isolated, and who don’t have consistent access to mental and physical health providers, are more likely to be depressed and suffer from chronic illnesses.

That’s not surprising and it’s true for people in many ethnic groups, says Astrid Suchy-Dicey, an assistant professor at WSU’s College of Medicine and a researcher with the university's Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH) in Seattle. But she says the data help identify specific issues for Native people.

“They have a unique environment and history and context that may put them at greater risk. I think that that risk is important. I think we also know that that’s true for African-American people. It’s probably also true to some degree for Hispanic Latino people," she said.

Suchy-Dicey suggests tribes might consider enacting or expanding programs that provide more companionship and social support to see if that leads to better mental and physical health among their members.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.