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Cherokee Prof. Gets $2.9M Grant to Research an Intertribal Talking Circle for Drug Abuse Prevention

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Professor John Lowe, Cherokee, was recently awarded a $2.9 million grant, funded by the National Institutes of Health, to conduct and evaluate an after-school substance abuse prevention intervention—Intertribal Talking Circle—among American Indian youth.

Dr. Lowe, a professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and one of approximately 20 doctoral-prepared Native American nurses in the United States, has been a longtime advocate for culturally competent healthcare for Native Americans and Indigenous people globally. He has represented Native American and Indigenous nurses in many national and international forums, and with national leaders. Globally, Lowe has provided health-care services and research consultation to underserved/disadvantaged groups in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Tanzania, Costa Rica, Jamaica and China. He has presented nationally and internationally, and has published several articles and books that report the findings of his research.

His most recent National Institutes of Health grant will help him reduce substance abuse and other risk behaviors among Native American youth through the traditional Talking Circle format.

“Intertribal Talking Circle for the Prevention of Substance Abuse in Native Youth” is a five-year research project targeting sixth grade Native American youth in three tribal communities: the Ojibwe/Chippewa in Minnesota; Choctaw in Oklahoma; and Lumbee in North Carolina. A community-based participatory research approach will be used to culturally and technologically adapt the Intertribal Talking Circle to be delivered as a web-based virtual Talking Circle that connects participants from all three tribal communities during the intervention sessions.

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The goal of the study is to evaluate the use of the Talking Circle to increase Native American youth cultural identity while decreasing their substance use. The study also will train tribal personnel throughout the three regions on how to implement the Talking Circle intervention as a more permanent program in their communities.

“The Talking Circle is both a cognitive and behavioral intervention, reviewing stress levels, substance abuse and other risk factors associated with the Native American Indian populations,” said Lowe. “In the work I have done on this subject, we have seen clear results associated with the Talking Circle, including increased self-worth and cultural identity, thus decreasing dependence on drugs and alcohol. I look forward to further evaluating the program and its effectiveness so it can be adopted and implemented by other tribal communities and Indigenous populations.”

This research project builds on several years of previous studies conducted by Lowe that have evaluated the use of the Talking Circle as an effective intervention for the prevention of substance use/abuse among Native American youth. Models have emerged from Lowe’s previously funded research, promoting the health and well-being of Native Americans across the country, and are being recognized internationally by those advocating for the health of other Indigenous populations.