The use of peer facilitators in health programs has great potential. One important application is prevention and control of type 2 diabetes among American Indians.
To explore the experience of American Indian facilitators in a culturally appropriate intervention (Talking Circles) on 2 Northern Plains reservations. The Talking Circles offered a forum for educational dialogue on diabetes risk factors and the management of type 2 diabetes.
Phenomenology, a qualitative research approach, was used to answer the research question: "What did Native Talking Circle facilitators experience?" Participants were 4 lay health workers from the intervention reservations who had been trained to present a diabetes curriculum while coordinating and guiding the group discussion. During open-ended, taped interviews, the facilitators shared their experiences conducting the Talking Circles. Analysis categorized the experiences into common themes to explain the phenomena and cultural construction of oral discussions (Talking Circles) of diabetes.
Themes included the concept of "a calling" to do the work, which included a self-growth process, a blending of 2 worldviews as a diabetes intervention strategy, the importance of translating educational materials in a liaison role, and commitment to tribal people and communities.
The experience of the facilitators was positive because they were knowledgeable about American Indian culture and worldview and were trained in both Talking Circle facilitation and type 2 diabetes.
Smoking rates among American Indian youth and adults are the highest in the nation. Funded by the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, the Tobacco Policies Among Plains Indians Project held focus groups on seven reservations during 2001-2002. Members of three Ojibwe reservations in Minnesota, three Sioux reservations in South Dakota, and one Winnebago reservation in Nebraska participated. Areas investigated included smoking knowledge, initiation, attitudes and behaviors, and perceptions of harm. Findings indicate that lenient attitudes toward smoking behaviors, low harm value, and partiality toward the smoking habit and the ritualistic behavior it invokes are long-standing and powerful to overcome. To initiate interventions for persistent smoking, tribes will need to target efforts toward the creation of healthy communities.