BYU MPH students embark on the daunting task of including Native American populations in Farm to Fork Bill.
Eating fresh food should be a given opportunity to everyone, right? Well, the stakeholders at Indigenous International agreed on this when they spoke with Jacinda Merrill, McKinley Huefner, Melanie Jones, Afiba Tandoh, and Jennifer Benson, all MPH students at Brigham Young University. The stakeholders and MPH students believed that the F2F House Bill 256, created and proposed by the organization Farm to Fork, had the potential to help underserved Native American reservation to achieve better health. The team and stakeholders started collaborating to give Native American reservations a voice in the F2F House Bill 256. The team created a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) to provide an objective recommendation for the proposed bill. It would be an understatement to simply say that the team of MPH students spent a lot of time working on the F2F HIA. The project became their passion, and their desire to see it through was fueled by their time and energy. Under the guidance of professor Mike Barnes, the team was able to manage their time to create a product that would help the Native American population.
Creating an HIA is no easy task. One of the key elements in creating a strong HIA is obtaining accurate data. This was an obstacle for the team, but it was quickly resolved as the team built a friendship with their stakeholders. The team listened to the stakeholders' concerns and ideas. They listened to stories from leaders in the Native American community. This was key in gathering data, since most data for Native American populations is sometimes old, inaccurate, or difficult to find. Hearing from a plethora of personal experiences allowed the team to pinpoint the actual benefits of including Native Americans in the F2F House Bill 256.
The team was surprised to hear that their F2F HIA had been read and their recommendations were under consideration. Jacinda Merrill remarked, “I am excited for the potential difference that we will make!” Creating policy is a difficult task, but it is even more difficult for it to be viewed. The process takes time and patience. Along with that, policy makers need to be persistent to make sure their constituent’s voices are heard.
With that being said, Jacinda Merrill commented that “Policy gets a bad rap because people think policy is slow and nothing can get done. In reality, it is the best way to make lasting change.” Policy is an avenue to make a difference in people’s lives. That is why it is important to get to know the population you work with so that you can best represent them and understand how to help.
Jacinda Merrill and her team are hopeful for the future of the F2F House Bill 256. They are excited to see their recommendations implemented. Many Native Americans struggle with diabetes and other health challenges. The fresh produce that the F2F House Bill 256 will provide will help alleviate these health problems. It’s time to change the narrative for Native Americans’ determinants of health.