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Study to look at Eskimo dance and other traditional activities as health promotion continues

Submitted by Diana Campbell
Phone: 907-474-5221


FAIRBANKS, Alaska --Eskimo dancing is more than learning songs and correct movements. It can help reduce stress, say people in Tuntutuliak, a Yup'ik community that has been developing culturally appropriate ways to improve health as part of a University of Alaska Fairbanks research project.

Now the project, part of UAF's Center for Alaska Native Health Research, will continue until early 2009, thanks to a $401,000 grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutes and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, part of the National Institutes of Health.

"I'm very proud of the work we've been able to accomplish," said Cécile Lardon, the project's principal investigator and a UAF associate professor of psychology.

The project, now in its fourth year, is called Piciryaratgun Calritlerkaq in Yu'pik, or "Healthy Living Through A Healthy Lifestyle" in English. Tuntutuliak is a Yup'ik village southwest of Bethel. The aim of the project, in partnership with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, is to develop a sustainable health promotion program by building on and developing local expertise and infrastructure. According to Henry Lupie and Douglas Kernak, Tuntutuliak project team leaders, the project has three goals:

" Increase the consumption of traditional foods,
" Increase opportunities for physical activities, and
" Reduce stress.

So far, some of their ideas, such as holding traditional food potlucks for nutritional education, have worked, they said.

"We've been hearing about some people changing their diet to eat more traditional foods," Kernak said.

They've also started a walking club and an Eskimo dance group, purchased snowshoes for use in winter and organized women's gym nights at the school.

The new funding could help lay important groundwork that will provide more information to seek a bigger grant from NIH in order to test the program on a larger scale.

"I think, in the long run, it will benefit the community," Lupie said. "It's not like any other program."

CANHR director Jerry Mohatt praised the team's efforts. Lardon's grant, along with others, furthers CANHR's goal of being a research center focused on prevention, he said. "The director of the National Institutes of Health talks about the role of research being preemptive and preventative and this helps situate our center in conducting this type of research."

CONTACT: Cecile Lardon at 907-474-5272 or Diana Campbell, CANHR communication specialist, at 907-474-521

ON THE WEB: www.alaska.edu/canhr