School of Nursing Awarded Grant to Address Racism’s Impact on Indigenous Youth

Dr. John Lowe

The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing is one of two organizations selected by the Rita & Alex Hillman Foundation for the 2021 Hillman Innovations in Care (HIC): Racism and Health Program. Representing leading edge, nursing-driven efforts to address the impact of racism on health, the award recognizes School of Nursing Professor John Lowe’s work on the effects of historical trauma and discrimination on the mental health of Native American youth through the Talking Circle program. The 2021 HIC grant award winners were chosen from a field of more than 150 applicants.

The Talking Circle program is the first manualized talking circle with a written format and curriculum and is based on three Native-Reliance components: being responsible, being confident, being disciplined. The program was developed by Dr. Lowe, a Native American nurse scientist, and his tribal elder Chief Henson more than 20 years ago.

“Data shows that many adolescents initiate substance use by age 11, so our focus is on prevention by early intervention of substance use and its associated health risks among children 10 through 12,” Dr. Lowe said. “This approach has been very successful because we take a strength-based approach.”

The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and local education officials will work with Dr. Lowe to implement the Talking Circle intervention in the Robeson County school system. The intervention has been proven to enhance youth well-being and promote a sense of belonging, cultural identity, and the reduction of substance use and associated health risk behaviors among various Native American and other Indigenous populations. Integrating this program throughout the county’s 36 schools will transform how local educational institutions address the impact of historical trauma, racism, and marginalization on the mental health well-being of students. The system-wide application of the Talking Circle is the first of its kind and could have important ramifications for addressing the mental health well-being of youth in other underserved communities.

The Talking Circle has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice programs as a “Promising Evidence-based Program” for the well-being of youth.

Principal Investigator: John Lowe, RN, PhD, FAAN, of The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing (Cherokee); with Jada Brooks, PhD, MPSH, RN, FAAN (Lumbee); and Eugenia Millender, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC, CDE (Kuna).