Kansas Tribal Health Summit addresses health concerns from tribal community

Published: Aug. 28, 2023 at 6:11 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - After four years, the Kansas Tribal Health Summit was held in person on Monday.

The four tribes in Kansas include the Iowa Tribe, Kickapoo Tribe, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, and the Sac and Fox Nation.

A panel was held where tribal community members could ask questions and suggest changes.

Tribal Community Impact Director for the American Heart Association, Dr. Ponka-We Cozad, said that health in their community resonates with her personally.

“Unfortunately Native Americans are at the top when it comes to these health illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, suicide, and mental health. We are at the top of those statistics,” stated Cozad. “So, it is very important that we come together to try to learn together and grow together.”

Community members said that their tribes are often overlooked and they feel forgotten.

Co-chair for the Kansas Tribal Health Summit, Olivia Pewamo, said that not being able to meet in person during COVID created a lot of separation.

“In our communities we need each other,” said Pewamo. “We’re smaller tribal communities, so we need every person at the table when we have these events.”

Transportation was a common theme during the panel discussion.

Co-chair for the Kansas Alliance for Tribal Community Health (KATCH), Maria Fairman, said that the transportation barrier is still a challenge.

“I believe there needs to be more programs available to provide transportation to and from,” said Fairman. “We have people in places that go 100 miles round trip just for health care.”

Tribe members said that the event provides an insider point of view that is not always noticed.

“I know how important it is to get the education, to get access to resources in order to help all our people,” stated Cozad.