Promoting Health and Wellness in the Community

   By Partnership

Many Native communities live in a constant state of inequity with limitations in health care, utilities, housing and transportation. As a result of these challenges, Community Health Representatives (CHRs) take on several different roles to connect with Elders in rural communities like Thoreau, New Mexico. Our Program Partner Pamela, a Navajo veteran who now works as a CHR, is dedicated to improving the well-being of Elders in Thoreau. Through the Healthy Living service of Southwest Reservation Aid® (SWRA), a program of Partnership with Native Americans® (PWNA), Pamela can provide Elders with hygiene and health supplies like laundry detergent, soaps, toothpaste, and paper towels among other necessities.

Pamela expressed gratitude for the SWRA supplies that incentivize participation in health-related services such as COVID-19 education. Remembering the hurdles of keeping her community safe during the height of the virus, Pamela said, “I lost a lot of clients since the pandemic. I went from about 200 to 100 clients.” Although COVID-19 is expected to no longer be a public health emergency, its effects still linger on the Navajo Nation. “COVID is still a problem because of the lack of access to running water for lots of people,” shared Pamela.

SWRA incentives helped Pamela meet with Elders like 69-year-old Hazel of the Navajo Nation. Hazel can’t drive, so Pamela makes home visits. Anytime Hazel needs to run errands or stock up on supplies, she coordinates with her daughter who drives an hour into Thoreau, then drives Hazel 35 minutes to Gallup. Since the Navajo Nation declared a state of emergency due to extreme heat, Hazel tries to coordinate transportation only when necessary. Although the CHR program provides a valuable resource to help Hazel meet her health needs, they cannot provide transportation unless it is for medical emergencies.

When emergencies arise in Thoreau, unpredictable weather can pose an additional risk. Hazel primarily speaks Navajo, but she shared through Pamela that “the storms get very bad, and the roads can get unpassable. It gets bad when an ambulance is needed.” The roads in Hazel’s part of town are mostly dirt, so it can be too dangerous to risk a walk to the store for emergency supplies.

The Healthy Living service is also helpful as Hazel has gone through several unexpected hardships. Having lost several close family members over the span of one year, Hazel feels her support network shrinking. Sudden funeral planning for two sisters, her husband, a nephew, and her son-in-law have left her increasingly wary of her finances while trying to keep up with the rising costs of daily living. Although Hazel navigates several challenges in her life, she also finds room for enjoyment through gardening. She is especially excited to see the flowers in her garden bloom.

Your donation to SWRA can help partners like Pamela form relationships with Elders to provide vital health services in tribal communities.