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Keywords

Community-based participatory research; health policy; Native Americans/American Indians; obesity; policymaking; environment; intervention

Abstract

The Institute of Medicine and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified policy and environmental strategies as critical to the prevention and control of obesity. However such strategies are rare in American Indian communities despite significant obesity-related disparities. Tribal policymaking processes differ by tribal nation and are often poorly understood by researchers and public health practitioners, hindering the dissemination, implementation, and successful scale-up of evidence-base obesity strategies in tribal communities. To address these gaps in knowledge we surveyed 138 diverse stakeholders in two American Indian reservations to assess the feasibility of and readiness to implement CDC-recommended obesity policy strategies within their communities. We assessed general community readiness to address obesity using 18 questions from the Community Readiness Handbook. Means and standard deviations were evaluated and scores ranged from 1 (no readiness) to 9 (high readiness). We then assessed stakeholder attitudes regarding the feasibility of implementing specific strategies given tribal culture, infrastructure, leadership, and funding support. Average scores were calculated and mean values ranked from highest (best strategy) to lowest. Despite significant differences in their geographic and sociodemographic characteristics, both communities identified increasing the availability of healthy foods in tribal venues as the most feasible strategy and scored in the “preplanning” readiness stage. The survey design, implementation process, and findings generated significant community interest and discussion. Health planners in one of the communities used the survey findings to provide tribal decision-makers with measurable information to prioritize appropriate strategies for implementation.

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Valarie Jernigan