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SDSU nursing faculty receive grant to help assess American Indian priorities, needs and challenges in health care

The Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation recently announced the award of five grants, $50,000 each, that will support bold, early-stage interventions designed to improve the health and health care of marginalized populations. Among those grantees are South Dakota State University’s Mary Isaacson, an associate professor in the College of Nursing, and Tiara Ruff, a mentor in the College of Nursing’s Native American Nursing Education Center. 
Their project, “Designing a Trauma-Informed Community Health Worker Intervention to Address American Indian Social Invisibility and Health Inequities,” aims to identify the health care priorities and needs of the Lakota community in Rapid City and will collaborate with Woyatan Lutheran Church and the Wambli Ska Teen Center to collaboratively develop a culturally responsive, trauma-informed program to train and support community health workers. 
“Our primary goal will be to conduct a community needs assessment, which will identify American Indian’s priorities, needs and challenges when seeking health care services,” Isaacson said. “Our 18-month outcome is the creation of a plan with community partners to address the findings from the needs assessment to develop a position for a community health worker based at Woyatan, who will serve as a case manager and liaison between the American Indian and health care communities.”
“As co-PI, I will serve in the role of public health nurse liaison and will be based at Woyatan Lutheran,” Ruff said. “My goal is to model what it means to ‘be a good relative,’ by facilitating the development of relationships and building trust between the Lakota community, health care community and SDSU undergraduate nursing students.”
Other grantees are from the University of Illinois Chicago, the University of Washington, Duke University and Marquette University. Their work, along with Isaacson’s and Ruff’s, represents nursing-driven efforts that challenge conventional strategies for improving care for marginalized populations.
“Mainstream health care has been woefully slow in addressing racism’s impact on health,” said Ahrin Mishan, executive director of the Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation. “The innovative, community-centered approaches we are funding this year are a testament to the vital role nurses play in creating more equitable systems of care.” 
This group of grantees will launch a diverse set of programs across the United States to provide more effective, equitable and culturally congruent models of care for Native American, Latinx and African American communities. 
The Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation advances bold, nursing-driven innovations that promote equitable, person-centered and trustworthy care. It is committed to improving the health and health care of all people, especially populations who experience inequity, discrimination, oppression and indifference. Its goal it to help ignite and develop game-changing interventions and to cultivate a vibrant ecosystem of nurse innovators, grantees and partners dedicated to building a healthier, more equitable future for all. For more information, visit 
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