NDSU American Indian Public Health Resource Center Receives $15,000 BCBSND Caring Foundation SPARK Grant to Support Tribal Immunization

NDSU American Indian Public Health Resource Center

Fargo, ND. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) Caring Foundation proudly announces the allocation of a $15,000 SPARK grant to North Dakota State University’s (NDSU) American Indian Public Health Resource Center (AIPHRC) to bolster efforts aimed at increasing vaccination and immunization rates within tribal communities in North Dakota.

Recognized for its dedication to addressing public health disparities among American Indians, the AIPHRC seeks to leverage traditional sewing circles as a culturally responsive intervention to improve vaccination and immunization rates. The project aims to invite members of tribal communities to participate in sewing circles where they will make a ribbon skirt, ribbon shirt, shawl or jacket while information on immunizations and vaccinations will be provided. Attendees will also participate in a guided discussion regarding the information. By utilizing sewing circles, the initiative hopes to establish a culturally grounded foundation for present and future public health initiatives while also preserving cultural heritage.

"At a time when vaccination rates have declined since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, utilizing culturally sensitive interventions is crucial in renewing awareness and action within tribal communities," said Amber Blomberg, Executive Director of the BCBSND Caring Foundation. “We are so pleased to be able to fund this innovative initiative aimed at increasing health equity while also reducing preventable illnesses and fatalities.”

Native Americans residing in counties including Burleigh, Morton, Sioux, Cass, Dunn, Richland, Benson, Bottineau, Ramsey, Rolette and Grand Forks counties will have the opportunity to participate in these circles. The success of the initiative will be gauged through pre and post-tests, anticipating increased knowledge and a heightened inclination towards vaccination among participants. In addressing gaps and promoting equity, the initiative will provide evidence-based health information and guidance on vaccination locations within the targeted communities.

"As stewards of our cultural heritage and guardians of community well-being, we believe in the power of our traditions to foster health education,” said Vanessa Tibbitts, Program Leader of the American Indian Public Health Resource Center and enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Nation. “By threading together our rich heritage with essential vaccination knowledge in these sewing circles, we aim to not just stitch garments, but also weave a shield of protection for our people against preventable illnesses."

Strengthening People, Access, Resources and Knowledge (SPARK) grants are awarded to initiatives that encourage health and well-being in local communities, reflect community priorities and demonstrate strong local collaborations. The SPARK grant program, run by the BCBSND Caring Foundation, offers funding to non-profit organizations throughout North Dakota.

For more information about the American Indian Public Health Resource Center and the Caring Foundation, please visit https://www.ndsu.edu/centers/american_indian_health/ and https://www.bcbsnd.com/caring-foundation.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) Caring Foundation
Established in 1989, the BCBSND Caring Foundation (www.BCBSND.com/caring-foundation) is a private 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Through giving and investing, the Caring Foundation focuses on key health issues that help improve the health and well-being of North Dakotans and their communities. Caring Foundation staff work with grantees to support nonprofit sustainability, collaborate on shared outcomes and create lasting change.