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Summit: More control over health research needed

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico’s tribes want more control over and benefits from health-related research conducted among their people, participants in a Tribal Health Research Summit said.

Tribes should see the results of the research and learn ways they can use the findings to improve their own health, rather than serve merely as subjects, said Beverly Becenti-Pigman, chairman of the Navajo Nation Institutional Review Board.

“We get the impression researchers view the rez as a land of opportunity,” she said. “Our culture has long been exploited.”

Participants in the summit, held recently at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, stressed that researchers need to learn a tribe’s culture and take time to know the people and gain their trust.

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They also stressed community education and said they want their young people to be able to conduct research themselves “so we have more expert Indians and fewer Indian experts,” Becenti-Pigman said.

Dr. Gayle Dine’Chacon, director of the Center for Native American Health at the University of New Mexico, told participants diabetes is a possible research topic because it often is mentioned as a problem in Native communities. Members of the audience also listed obesity, suicide and cancer as possible research topics.

“I hope, as young researchers, you make war on diabetes, alcohol and substance abuse,” Becenti-Pigman said.