University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

A Culture and Wellness Pilot to Guide Community Engaged Public Health Research in Native American Populations

Matthew Dellinger, PhD; Gabrielle O’Keefe, BA; Amy Poupart; Doug Stevens, PhD; Stephanie Thompson; Azael Meza, BS; Laura Cassidy, MS, PhD

WMJ. 2022;121(2):153-156

Download full text pdf.


Background: Alaskan Native/American Indian (AI/AN) participation in biomedical sciences is often hindered by cultural miscommunication regarding concepts and definitions of health. Identifying culturally contextualized health priorities is crucial to building research collaborations between academic institutions and AI/AN consortia.

Methods: This article describes pilot data from the development of a culture and wellness questionnaire deployed by the Great Lakes Native American Research Center for Health at cultural events and community engagement meetings. The questionnaire was designed in collaboration with AI/AN members to assess performance indicators of public health promotion in AI/AN populations who are culturally inclined to interpret health holistically.

Results: There were 25 completed questionnaires. Connection to the land (88%) and “giving thanks” (96%) were the most prominently affirmed health and wellness concepts. Participants were least confident (33%) in the ability to support the next generation culturally (language, stories, etc). These results comport with anecdotal data that AI/AN concepts of health and wellness should be co-developed with AI/AN cultural leaders and community members. Future implications for academic partnerships are discussed.

Author Affiliations: Medical College of Wisconsin (Dellinger, O’Keefe, Cassidy); Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, City, Wisconsin (Poupart, Thompson, Meza); Native Environmental Health Research Consulting, Ronan, Montana (Stevens).
Corresponding Author: Matthew Dellinger, PhD, Associate Professor, Division of Epidemiology, Institute for Health and Equity, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226-0509; email
Funding/Support: This research was supported by Grant # 5S06GM127793-02 from the Great Lakes Native American Research Center for Health.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.


Share WMJ