Center for Reducing Health Disparities

Tobacco-Free/Substance-Free Event for Native Youth

Liz Brown Indian Center: Youth Suicide Prevention Program

Liz Brown specializes in youth suicide prevention within the Indian Center Inc.  As an advocate, she helps the youth she serves find healthier alternatives when dealing with overwhelming amounts of stress. The challenges in her work have made her realize that there is a great need in the Native American community to have open discussions about health risk behaviors.  She explains that seeking help is a serious stigma in her community. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), social determinants of health are conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. “These circumstances,” the WHO explains, “are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at a global, national and local level.”

Dapice et al, explains that the effects of social determinants of health for Native Americans have greatly resulted from European conquest.  The conquest created great displacement and death among Native people; pre-Columbian culture and diet clashed with European floured grain and alcohol, creating allergic and predisposed physiological responses; and past and present US policy has restricted Native Americans into great poverty and oppression. Dapice el al adds that accidents, homicide, and suicide are killing Native children and youth in larger numbers than any other racial group. Later in life, heart disease, chronic liver disease/cirrhosis, and diabetes kill Native adults in larger numbers than any other groups. Physiologically and socially, the causes of death for Native Americans are mostly related to alcoholism, smoking, and other addictions such as toxic foods.

For these many reasons, Native Americans are greatly disadvantaged and exposed to added stressors.  These disadvantages have created a gap in health equality for Native American people where many health issues have remained unresolved, thus allowing the disparity gap to widen. When Liz explains the stigma she experiences from her clients, she is describing post-traumatic stress disorder that is suffered through a whole community. After so many centuries of oppression and therein depression, Native people may continue to “re-experience trauma” and numb themselves to their disparities.  The stigma and stress grows, and more premature deaths occur.

Liz wants to make a difference in her community, just like other partners who she’s collaborated with. Recently, she fantasized having a prevention kick off for youth. A rally Publication2that will serve as a festival of health information accessible to youth to prepare for a safe summer. Since  health behaviors are learned and our ancestors and relatives are our best teachers, she wanted to include their families as well. Together with Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition and Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition, Liz is planning an event full of  protective ways to respond when temptations are creeping by.

The event will be held outdoors at Hanscom Park in Omaha on Thursday June 12th from 4.30pm-8.30pm. The day is fast approaching!

The event will be [of course] tobacco free/substance free. There will be cultural celebration, elders will share their music, and families will share their food during a community potluck. Kids will have the chance to visit with different vendors to learn more about keeping safe  and have a chance to win prizes like zoo passes and theater passes to keep busy and active this summer. If you know a native youth, be a positive role model in their life and bring him/her to this youth rally called “The Good Life in My Moccasins.”

For more details and to join our Facebook page, please visit:

To learn more about smoking and tobacco please view a local short documentary made here in Nebraska:

Dapice, A.N., Inkanish, C., Martin, B., Brauchi, P. (2002). Killing us slowly: When we can’t fight and we can’t run. Related Issues: Native American Health Issues and IHS. World Heath Organization. (2012). Social determinants of health.

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