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New UND Program to Focus on Health Issues for Indigenous People

The University of North Dakota says dozens of potential applicants already are awaiting its new Ph.D  program that focuses on indigenous health issues. (Adobe Stock)
The University of North Dakota says dozens of potential applicants already are awaiting its new Ph.D program that focuses on indigenous health issues. (Adobe Stock)
February 5, 2020

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The North Dakota Board of Higher Education has approved a new Ph.D program at the University of North Dakota, where students can focus on the health issues facing indigenous people.

The effort is being described as the first of its kind in the country. School officials say they hope to turn out more qualified scholars who have an interest in researching health disparities in indigenous communities. Donald Warne, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at the university's School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said those disparities have common themes.

"There's a history of colonization and marginalization and other challenges that have led to higher exposure to certain social determinants of health," he said, "like poverty or poor educational systems."

In addition to researching and evaluating these disparities, Warne said graduates should be well suited to serve as effective health-care leaders in indigenous communities. Applications soon will be accepted for the courses, which will be available online.

Through the research, Warne said they also don't want to focus on the negative health issues for indigenous communities. He said evaluators also will be trained to figure out what's working.

"We need to know how effective it is," he said. "What is it improving? Can we measure it?"

For example, he said, some programs that focus on helping indigenous people rely less on government food assistance, with access instead to more traditional healthy foods their ancestors were able to consume. He said programs such as these need more evaluation so they can grow properly.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND