NAJA launches Native Health News Alliance

Posted by Rebecca Landsberry on 07/22/2013

NORMAN, Okla. — The Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), headquartered in Norman, Okla., announced a partnership with the Native Health News Alliance (NHNA), which aims to provide greater, improved coverage of health issues across Indian Country.

The project is funded by a $157,537 grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation located in Battle Creek, Mich., June 1, 2013 through May 31, 2014.

Www.NativeHealthNews.com will serve as a health information cooperative for American Indian media. Any journalist covering Native health can create a username to login, contribute and share their stories.

The website was developed in February 2012 through collaboration between NAJA members Teresa Trumbly Lamsam (Osage) and Rhonda LeValdo (Acoma Pueblo), who recognized a need for enhanced coverage of health issues facing their own Native communities.

Reporting kiosks will be a primary NHNA feature, offering journalists reliable, pre-packaged background information on a health issue of particular concern to indigenous communities. Native journalists will be encouraged to localize the issue and then share their stories with the larger community through the NHNA cooperative.

NAJA will contract with freelance journalists to create the first news kiosks on breastfeeding and oral health. The kiosks will include a series of reports that include text, informational graphics, images and video reports as appropriate.

Lamsam, associate professor at the University of Nebraska Omaha, serves as NHNA board president and executive editor.

“When the tragedy of disease is so prominent within your own families and communities, you either give in to it or you find that spark of resiliency,” Lamsam said. “I chose to dig deep and find that spark and that’s when it happened. What I started seeing around me were the stories of wellness, even among those who were struggling the hardest with health.”

LeValdo and Lamsam initially recruited fellow American Indian journalists and launched a citizen wellness blog, Wellbound Storytellers (WBS), in May 2012 to share their unique fitness journeys.

“Our original idea was the WBS would be a blog for Native journalists to get real about their health and become role models in their communities,” Lamsam said. “But, we had such an interest from other Natives, that we opened it up to the non-journalists as well.”

Eventually, the idea for WBS served as the model for a web-based virtual reporting assistant for Native media outlets. NAJA members can now expand their Native health news content by utilizing NHNA resources as an information base and cooperative network for the coverage of shared American Indian health issues.

“Through the website, our goal is to not only provide assistance to resource-strapped Native media but also to provide the avenue for Native American journalists to become the national media leaders in setting the news agenda for health in Indian Country,” Lamsam said.

LeValdo, Haskell Indian Nations University media instructor and NAJA board president, said she hopes NHNA will have a positive impact on the welfare of Indian Country and Native media by providing another opportunity for members to tell their own stories.

“NAJA now has an opportunity to provide content for use by national media outlets while also helping tribal communities by sharing information beneficial to them.  We are excited to work with our NAJA members in this endeavor,” LeValdo said.

About NAJA:

NAJA serves and empowers Native journalists through programs and actions designed to enrich journalism and promote Native cultures. NAJA recognizes Native Americans as distinct peoples based on tradition and culture. In this spirit, NAJA educates and unifies its membership through journalism programs that promote diversity and defends challenges to free press, speech and expression. 

NAJA is committed to increasing the representation of Native journalists in mainstream media. NAJA encourages both mainstream and tribal media to attain the highest standards of professionalism, ethics and responsibility.

For more information, visit www.nativehealthnews.com or www.NAJA.com.

About the W. K Kellogg Foundation:

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit www.wkkf.org.