A community of practice is an approach to learning where members share best practices and deepen their knowledge through interaction on an ongoing basis. Communities of practice have existed for as long as people have been learning and sharing their knowledge and experience through storytelling. Like our elders who pass down their knowledge and wisdom through stories, a community practice is innately Indigenous. It is a group of people who share a common concern, passion, craft, profession, or set of challenges, and come together to fulfill individual and group goals.
“Communities hold the knowledge to improve and sustain health and wellness; they’ve been doing public health, always.” – Forum Participant, August 2016
Those who are part of our community of practice benefit in the following ways:
Concepts of health and healing in Native communities are often holistic, encompassing not just physical and mental health, but the emotional and spiritual well-being of individuals, families, and communities. Despite this holistic view, health services are often provided without the essential integration of multiple services (e.g. health care, behavioral health, and public health). Integrated services are ones where organizations and departments coordinate services, share data, leverage resources, and collaboratively assess performance and evaluate service impact on health outcomes.
In Fall 2018, Seven Directions’ Our Nations, Our Journeys Indigenous Public Health Forum will focus on health system transformation, specifically looking at ways to bridge public health and health care services. Interactive sessions and discussions will lead to the development of a ‘roadmap’ highlighting ideas generated at the forum and in the field.
Growing our own qualified public health workforce means investing time, accessing resources, fostering learning, and retaining the best available public health expertise in our communities. Our workshops and trainings bring people together from across the Tribal and Urban Indian public health system. This allows people with a shared context to communicate and share information, history, stories, and personal experiences in a way that builds understanding and insight. It nurtures a collective identity that promotes a sense of belonging, coherence, validation, and a shared purpose.
“What I valued most about the forum was the inspiration, admiration, willingness to share and promote the processes that have been utilized towards public health accreditation” – Forum Participant, August 2016
Seven Directions’ interest in research and evaluation starts from the premise that Indigenous Peoples have collected and used data to make decisions since time immemorial. To support knowledge gathering and development, our research efforts look to evidence-based Indigenous perspectives to truly address community needs, reflect community values, and ensure the ethical principles of American Indian and Alaska Native communities are met.
Culture matters, and many Indigenous practices include norms and customs around health, healing, religion, ceremony, governance, economics, family relationships, societal roles and responsibilities, teaching, learning, and the arts. These cultural practices affirm cultural identity, connect people and the environment, and support intergenerational sharing, all of which are attributed to supporting good health and well-being.