Native VOICES: American Indian & Alaska Native Youth Making Healthy Choices

Date: February 19th, 2015

Mattie Tomeo-Parker
Guest Blog by Mattie Tomeo-Palmanteer

Adolescent health and positive youth development are important issues for many tribal communities. Good adolescent health provides a strong foundation for adult health. However, some adolescents’ choices can have serious life-threatening consequences. Without options and direction, many youth take milestone steps that impact their adulthood without even being aware that they are doing so.

Alternatively, when young people are supported in making positive choices, the benefits to the individual and community are significant because many lifelong patterns are established during adolescence. For these reasons, addressing the health and well-being, and sharing the responsibility of healthy decision making with Native young people is imperative.

To support American Indian & Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth’s ability to make healthier informed decisions related to sexual health, tribes in the Pacific Northwest sought a cost-effective, culturally appropriate sexual health intervention that could be readily integrated into Indian Health Service (IHS)/Tribal/Urban clinical services and a variety of tribal settings.

This plan drove the selection of VOICES (Video Opportunities for Innovative Condom Education and Safer Sex), a CDC-recognized single session STI/HIV prevention intervention, to undergo adaptation for American Indian youth 15-24 years old.

Since then, we’ve been working with nine tribes across the U.S. to evaluate the effectiveness of the Native VOICES intervention. Altogether, the sites recruited and consented nearly 800 AI/AN youth 15-24 years old to participate in the study. Due to the hard work and perseverance of the local site coordinators, nearly 75% of the participants completed six-month follow-up surveys. The final evaluation report will be completed in April 2015.

After completing the intervention, 65% of youth participants felt more likely to use condoms.

Get the Native VOICES Toolkit

A toolkit was designed to support the intervention’s dissemination and implementation in diverse tribal settings. The toolkit includes the Native VOICES video (23 minutes), a condom demonstration video (fewer than two minutes), a dental dam demonstration video (a little longer than one minute), a selection of condoms and dental dams, fact sheets, a cover letter with links to the trailer, template flyers, parental letters, tips for answering sensitive questions, a video satisfaction survey, and a user’s guide.

The video and implementation toolkit are now available free-of-charge to sites working with AI/AN youth. To order a toolkit, please email your name, address, and contact phone number.

The project is supported by the Indian Health Services Native American Research for Health (NARCH) program. Learn more here.

-Mattie Tomeo-Palmanteer, BSW, is with the Colville Confederated Tribes & Yakama Nation.

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