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Press Release

Release Date: April 13, 2022
by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

The Chickasaw Nation strives to have a positive impact on its communities and neighbors.

Although COVID-19 cases remain low in Oklahoma, public health is still at the forefront of the Chickasaw Nation’s concerns. Public health affects the everyday lives of everyone in the communities throughout the Chickasaw Nation. The tribe has many programs and services designed with public health in mind.

Miranda Willis is an epidemiologist with the Chickasaw Nation Research and Public Health Division.

“Public health is a little bit of everything,” Willis said. “We focus on providing accurate public health data and integrating programs into our community to support healthy behaviors.”

The division focuses on providing accurate public health information and vaccinations, building strong connections with communities, and expanding the mission of the Chickasaw Nation.

“Our division addresses health disparities,” Willis said. “We focus on building strong connections within our communities. We provide services like vaccinations, parent trainings and community outreach events that bring people together to be as healthy as possible.”

Public health is meeting people where they are. Efforts are seen in programs that support public health, such as the Chickasaw Nation Packed Promise​ program, which delivers food to families. Programs like this are working to improve community access to nutritious foods.

Focusing on transforming the way the public views the dangers of opioids is the goal of the Define Your Direction (DYD) program. DYD targets several communities within Oklahoma and educates the public about opioids, opioid misuse and overall awareness to help keep residents safe.

“Public health is learning about the problems within your community and how you can address those,” Willis said. “It can be as simple as (community) waste removal programs or as complex as vaccination development. Public health is everywhere and for everyone.”

Other types of community collaboration can be seen by the Hofanti Chokma (To Grow Well)​program and its efforts to build strong and positive environments where children can thrive. A strong, resilient and caring family is the pillar of a solid and enduring community.

More information about these programs is available at PackedPromise.com, DefineYourDirection.com and Chickasaw.net/GrowWell.The growing need for public health

The Chickasaw Nation Research and Public Health Division began with four people. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for public health experts was put to the forefront within the medical profession. In the last three years, the division has experienced enormous growth. It now employs more than 35 personnel.

“As we move away from the COVID-19 pandemic response, we are going to see other public health issues pop back up,” Willis said. “We need to have a strong workforce in place so that we can negate public health issues.”

Experts in the public health field come from all sorts of disciplines. They serve in and represent areas such as health care, research, epidemiology, health promotion, healthy child development and nursing, as well as campaigns empowering youth and combating drug abuse.

Topics of public health include rebuilding, eliminating health disparities, strengthening community, environmental wellness, increasing COVID-19 resilience, uplifting mental health and wellness, and elevating the health workforce.