Provider updates

NARA: Canceled event reimagined into engaged, integrated, culturally aware service delivery

by User Not Found | Sep 08, 2020

The Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest (NARA) team is working diligently to maintain patient engagement during the current health crisis and its resulting service barriers.

Every year NARA hosts a Children’s Metal Health Awareness Day event, an in-person gathering that brings their member community together for health services and entertainment. The dental team traditionally hosts a dental table with information about the clinic and services offered. The dental team also provides an educational, dental kid-centric activity at the event.

Like much else, the in-person event was canceled this year. Had it taken place, the partner event would have provided dental assessments and services. As that was no longer an option, they found a way to continue patient engagement. They switched gears. They accomplished this by directly supporting oral health and oral health integration by embracing a culturally-specific activity in line with much of their member population.

NARA Dental supplied materials for 550 oral hygiene kits which the NARA youth team assembled. The kits were then delivered directly to members’ homes by NARA staff. The kits included oral health supplies, a timer (for brushing teeth), and information on how to connect with services. They also included a bit of fun; each kit had a bag of materials so the members could still create the art project intended for the original event – each making their own buffalo tooth necklace. The materials included beads, string and water buffalo teeth. 

In native cultures, buffalo represent the sustaining of life and the spirit of humbleness. The Medicine of Buffalo is prayer, gratitude and praise for that which has been received. Buffalo Medicine is also knowing that abundance is present when all relations are honored as sacred, and when gratitude is expressed to every living part of creation, recognizing the sacredness of every walk of life. It is significant that these were water buffalo teeth, water being the giver of all life.  

NARA’s Milieu and Community Specialist, Toni Matt, explained that when they considered the buffalo teeth necklaces, it would also be “a reminder to care for their own teeth; wearing the water buffalo tooth necklace encourages young ones to take care of their own teeth by brushing and flossing regularly, since the animal gave its life and its tooth so that the necklace could be made.”

Thank you, NARA, for exemplifying out-of-the box thinking and for the nimble-ness necessary to maintain patient engagement during the current health crisis and its resulting service limitations. You also managed to do so while delivering needed services (oral health care materials), integrating (working across team at your organization), and exhibiting culturally-specific support in a fun and exciting way!

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