American Indians in North Carolina have documented health disparities across a number of health conditions and limited access to culturally competent health care services. “One approach to addressing this problem is increasing the number of trained American Indian health care professionals in the state” said Dr. Ronny Bell, Co-Director of Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity at Wake Forest School of Medicine and Vice Chair of NCAIHB. NCAIHB, was established in 2009, and is focused on promoting quality health care and healthy lifestyles within American Indian families and communities in NC through research, education, and advocacy. The organization was established after a report was released from the North Carolina American Indian Health Task Force that was jointly convened in 2004 by the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the NC Commission of Indian Affairs. The Task Force brought together representatives from all American Indian tribes and select organizations from across NC, and was co-chaired by then NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Carmen Hooker-Odom and NC Commission of Indian Affairs Chair Paul Brooks.
Establishing a network of American Indian physicians in NC has been one of the primary goals of the organization since it hired its first Executive Director, Edgar Villanueva, a member of the Lumbee Tribe. According to Villanueva, the group wants to utilize this network to “share research and information, to listen and support concerns of American Indian physicians, and to incorporate their ideas and strategies into the vision of our organization.”
The gathering is sponsored by Novo Nordisk, a long-time supporter of improving diabetes disparities for American Indians. The private dinner will be held in Lumberton on November 8th at 6pm. Speakers include NCAIH Board Chair, Dr. Robin Cummings; NCAIHB Vice Chair, Dr. Ronny Bell. Further, the group will hear from Dr. Anthony Cannon, a national physician leader in diabetes education and treatment who serves on the national multicultural advisory board for Novo Nordisk. The gathering will also feature a celebrity guest, Lou Brock, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985, and is ranked among the top 100 greatest baseball players of all time. Brock is living with diabetes and is a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk.
Greg Richardson, Executive Director for the NC Commission of Indian Affairs states, "This is a real tipping point for our American Indian people in our state. This starts the process to bring our health concerns to a higher level of attention through a vehicle utilized by many other regions to address Indian health needs."