388: Tribal Vaccine Messaging, Celebrating a Family of 163 Doctors

Gary Lankford, Advances in Indian Health Care Program Director at the Association of American Indian Physicians, explains vaccine messaging that appeals to American Indian and Alaskan Native populations; Dr. Laura Chanchien Parajon, Deputy Cabinet...

Gary Lankford, Advances in Indian Health Care Program Director at the Association of American Indian Physicians, explains vaccine messaging that appeals to American Indian and Alaskan Native populations; Dr. Laura Chanchien Parajon, Deputy Cabinet Secretary of Health at New Mexico Department of Health, discusses National Doctor’s Day and her ancestral ties to primary care and public health; the ASTHO Public Health TechXpo and Futures Forum announces premier sponsor Palantir; and registration is open for ASTHO’s 2023 Health Equity Summit in Atlanta, Georgia.

Public Health Review


Public Health TechXpo and Futures Forum

Health Equity Summit: A Movement for Justice


ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Thursday, March 30th, 2023. I'm Robert Johnson. Now today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.



Early in the vaccine rollout American Indian Alaskan Native people were really in many ways leading most other groups when it came to actually getting vaccinated.



Gary Lankford is with the Association of American Indian physicians. He says some people in tribal communities had the same concerns as others in the country about the COVID-19 vaccine with one notable exception.



Many Native people across the country are wary of anything they feel as mandated by the government. And that's due to basic distrust of the federal government based on the failure of that government to honor historical treaties in different areas with Native people. And that in itself causes a certain amount of weariness or distrust of the government that is actually specific to American Indian Alaskan Native people.



Langford says the association's members did a great job educating their patients about the vaccine, adding concern for tribal elders helped convince people to get the shot.



One of the messages that we put out there that seemed to resonate with people and often does resonate with Native people is the vaccine is not only going to protect you, but it's also there to protect your family and the elders in your tribe and in your community. And that's something that across the board, no matter where you are in this country, if you're in a tribal community, that's something that's going to resonate. It's going to be important to people because they really do want to protect our elders.



The association has been part of ASTHO's Vaccine Equity Project Advisory Committee. You can hear Langford and others discuss vaccine equity among American Indian and Alaskan Native populations on a new edition of the Public Health Review podcast available now everywhere you stream audio. There's also a link in the show notes.


National Doctors Day is today, the day is meant to celebrate the work doctors do to keep communities healthy. The moment has special meaning to New Mexico Deputy Health Secretary Dr. Laura Chanchien Parajon. We discovered why during a conversation on the sidelines of ASTHO's Spring Meeting in Washington, DC.


We're talking about Doctors Day, National Doctors Day, and when we were chatting before we started to record, you went off into this amazing story about how important doctors day is to you. Because there are so many doctors in your family give us the synopsis the Reader's Digest version of this.



The Reader's Digest version is that my dad is one of 163 Champion Doctors from Taiwan, when the Japanese came to, you know, take over Taiwan many, many years ago, my great grandfather thought that was it would be a great idea to get out of poverty as farmers and send his sons to become doctors in Japan. And so those seven doctors that came out of that set birth to other Chanchien doctors, so that at one point in time when my dad had become a doctor, there were 163 Chanchien doctors in Taiwan. Between Taiwan and the United States across about a 100-year period of history. Yes, yes. So, Doctors Day is a big day for us, because I guess it's kind of like the job that a lot of our people in my family did.



Including you?



Including me. Yeah.



You're a medical doctor as well. That's not something you would expect to hear if we said, "You're an MD? Happy Doctors Day!"



Thank you. Yes.



And so, of course, you're now in public health, which is more about the policy, obviously, and getting things taken care of so that systems can work, and programs can go out the door.



Yes, I think, you know, obviously, there's so many aspects of public health. But one of the ones that I have been most interested is in the linkage between public health and primary care.


And part of that is because I actually worked in another health system in Latin America for many years. And in places like Nicaragua, Costa Rica, like Central America, public health and primary care is intimately linked, they actually service public health and primary care in the same clinics, right. So, they're not just looking at the primary care piece, they’re looking at the population health piece. So, I did see a different system, and we don't do that completely in the States. They also really focus on community empowerment, and on how like communities also, you know, because the way they organize it is around communities. And there's a little health post and public health clinic that does primary care, including like deliveries and, you know, just basic health care in the community.


So, I saw that a I saw that work. And I saw that with very little money, they were able to change outcomes in a very significant way. So, I do think that there's things we can learn from other countries, other countries that have done amazing work in public health and primary care. And so that's kind of the space where I really feel like there's more, we can do in the United States around how we can link public health and the health care system together.



Well, you must be proud of that story, though.



I am, right. I think being a doctor is awesome. And being a public health doctor is awesome, because I'm a family physician. And when I saw people every day in my clinic, I was helping one patient at a time. And I love that I love that connection with my patients. And I love to help people like the way my dad helped people. But I also love public health so much, because you're thinking about systems and taking care of whole state and a whole population. And what can we do to link you know, public health, the health system, you know, address homelessness, because that will also help health, you know, just how everything fits together. I think that's what's amazing about being a public health doctors that you get to see even a broader vision of how we can have health for all people.



Also today, ASTHO's Public Health TechXpo and Futures Forum is coming up soon in Chicago and online. The event allows attendees to connect with innovators in the health and public health technology space. One of those is Palantir, a TechXpo Premier sponsor. Palantir transforms the work of federal health agencies by enabling connectivity across the health data ecosystem. You can find out more about Palantir and the event using the links in the show notes.


Finally, this morning, don't forget to add ASTHO's Health Equity Summit to your schedule in April. The event is in Atlanta, attendees will learn how to create a movement for justice. Get more information by visiting the link in the show notes.

That will do it for today's newscast. We're back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information. I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Gary Lankford

Indian Health Care Program Director, Association of American Indian Physicians

Laura Parajon MD MPH

Deputy Cabinet Secretary of Health, New Mexico Department of Health