Proposals to receive program grants through the Notah Begay III Foundation's (NB3F) new national initiative, Native Strong: Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures, are due Monday, October 28. Tribal communities and Native nonprofits should submit applications for funding to strengthen existing youth-focused physical activity and/or healthy nutrition programs and to build capacity for program evaluation.
"Thanks to the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's $1.5 million seed grant we are launching this new national initiative and offering tribes and Native nonprofits the opportunity to apply for Native Strong: Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures program grants," Crystal EchoHawk, executive director of the NB3 Foundation, told Indian Country Today Media Network.
NB3 will provide the initial investments in tribal communities to increase access to physical activity or healthy food. "Type 2 diabetes is nothing short of an epidemic in Indian country, which is severely under resourced, and we can't expect the Indian Health Service to be the only one" working to reverse this deadly trend within Native communities, EchoHawk said.
"Serious health issues are facing tribal kids. NB3 is helping tribal communities build capacity to make a long-term impact on children's health. This is an unprecedented initiative in Indian country," EchoHawk stressed.
Grants will support programs in three different regions: the Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona), the Upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin) and; the Southern Plains (Oklahoma, Texas). The NB3 initiative will be focused on investment in research, grantmaking, technical assistance and advocacy for Native American communities.
"We encourage all tribal communities to apply for grants," EchoHawk said. "We are really excited to hear from all different types of groups. The only thing we ask is that particularly if they're a nonprofit, they have to demonstrate that they have a majority Native leadership and have done community support."
In addition to equipping more Native American communities with resources and training to address this health crisis through innovative, community-driven, culturally appropriate and multi-faceted programs on a local level, this expanded effort will provide unprecedented funding for research into childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes among Native American children. Currently, there is no clearinghouse of data on the topic, which impedes work to fully understand these health issues and the best prevention strategies to effectively combat them. By generating detailed research data and advocating on a national level to reinforce the incredible need for additional resources, NB3 Foundation will elevate the issue in the hopes of reaching even more communities in the future.
"One of the things that we struggle with is there are serious gaps in data regarding childhood rates for Type 2 diabetes, and the data is not always consistent," EchoHawk told ICTMN. "As a result of the lack of data, or not being able to pull the data together in one place, our children have been made invisible to policy makers, philanthropies and others.
"We want to find out: What are the root causes driving these prevalence rates? Presently there is not enough infrastructure for public health, or resources for children to engage in physical activity." Many reservations are essentially "food deserts" or remote areas without access to fresh produce, EchoHawk explained.
"Mapping [this data] will tell us 1) where the disparities are, and 2) allow us to see where opportunities are to invest. As we go out and advocate, saying 'Here's where the gaps are, and here are the opportunities for investment,' will help us push the needle forward," she added.
The need for investment in this cause continues to grow. While childhood obesity rates across the nation are showing positive signs of improvement, they are moving in the opposite direction in many Native communities, some of which have childhood obesity rates exceeding 60 percent. That alarming rate also indicates accelerated incidences of type 2 diabetes, which is often caused by obesity. Current trends indicate one-in-two Native American children will develop Type 2 diabetes, a rate higher than all other ethnicities combined. Native Americans are twice as likely as Caucasians to die from diabetes.
“This is a transformative time for the Notah Begay III Foundation. It’s the next step in realizing our vision to empower Native American children nationwide to achieve their potential as tomorrow’s leaders,” said four-time PGA TOUR winner, NBC/Golf Channel analyst and NB3F founder, Notah Begay III. “Childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes are epidemics in Native American communities. Until we invest the appropriate resources to turn the tide against these preventable diseases, they will continue to overwhelm our communities. There is still much more work to be done but, with the help of the great people at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the ongoing support of all our partners and donors, we’ve taken a very important step toward accomplishing our mission.”
For more information about NB3F, its work in Native communities and the continued need for support, visit: www.nb3foundation.org. All applications must be submitted through the NB3F online system by October 28.