To increase health literacy, self-management, and cultural competency in health care and public health settings, the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, in partnership with Diné cultural experts, philosophers, and traditional healers, has developed the Navajo Wellness Model curriculum entitled “Shá’bek’ehgo As’ah Oodááł A Journey with Wellness and Healthy Lifestyle Guided by the Journey of the Sun.”
The curriculum integrates the traditional ways of Navajo teachings with how one approaches daily health: through exercise, healthy eating, and maintaining a balance in all aspects of life and in accordance with the natural daily cycles of dawn, day, evening, and nighttime. It is designed to increase awareness, knowledge, and understanding among health care and public health providers of the core Navajo teachings about personal and family health, healthy communities, and a healthy environment.
The core teachings emphasize four domains of health and wellness from the Navajo perspective that include self-identity, self-respect, self-care, protection of self, and resiliency. My vision is to use our own Diné traditional teachings, our roots, as a foundation for Diné people to be empowered.
Using the curriculum, I began integrating traditional Navajo cultural teachings and language into local health programs, schools, clinics, and communities. Currently, the Navajo Area IHS Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program has trained over 200 health care and public health providers as trained educators and instructors across the Navajo Nation.
With the application of the Navajo Wellness Model curriculum teachings, we are bridging the understanding of optimal health from the Western medicine perspective and the Navajo Way of Life. For example, the Navajo Way of Life bases the teachings on the connection with the Holy People, Mother Earth and Father Sky (the Universe). The main source of food comes from white, blue, yellow, and red corn, which are sacred. Daily offerings of white corn, corn pollen, and yellow corn to the Holy People for healing and resiliency are the core teachings for health and wellness.
I would like to thank the Office of Native Medicine Traditional Healers throughout the Navajo Area for their dedication and strong partnership to respond to the chronic disease epidemic and its complications in the Navajo communities.