The word “global” often refers to far-away nations, not Navajo, Pueblo, or Lakota Nations of the United States. The Native Health Initiative (NHI) hopes to correct that mis-perception. NHI, a partnership to address inequities in health facing American Indians, has politely and persistently advocated for the inclusion of U.S. based health communities and projects in the realm of global health.

The Global Health Education Consortium (GHEC) awards NHI the Global Health Project of the Year award at itsannual GHEC convention.

Established in 1991, GHEC is a consortium of faculty and health educators from over 70 universities dedicated to global health education. After all, the U.S. Is part of the globe,” points out NHI Coordinator and UNM medical student Missy Begay with a smile.

“Think about all of the diverse communities within our borders, from migrant farm workers to Asian immigrant communities in the Northwest to American Indian Tribes. There is so much work to do here at home.” For the past five summers, NHI has worked to provide an avenue for health professions students from the United States and other countries to volunteer under the guidance of health leaders in American Indian communities, learning about Indigenous culture and health in the process.

Created in North Carolina, this summer the partnership will expand its Health Justice Internships to New Mexico and Arizona communities. Anthony Fleg, a family medicine resident physician at UNM and Shannon Fleg, a health education graduate student at UNM also serve as coordinators of the NHI-New Mexico project.

“We have enjoyed great support from faculty and students on the Health Sciences Campus, and are working with the Office of Diversity, the BA/MD program and the P.A., M.D., and M.P.H. programs to increase attention given to health inequities and American Indian health,” says Shannon. Dr. Anvareli Velji, whose donations make the Global Health Project of the Year award possible, remarks, “We at GHEC have always felt that both aspects of health delivery to marginalized populations on the reserves or inner cities constitutes global health.”