For 14 years, UNM Professors Raj Shah and Philip Zager have been working together on the Zuni Kidney Project (ZKP), gathering volumes of genetic, health and environmental data to combat the Pueblo’s soaring rate of Kidney Disease. Prevalence of Kidney Disease has been established; environmental and genetic factors have been assessed; and the final phase of the evidenced-based health prevention / intervention developing medical, cultural and educational interventions has begun.

Evidence-based translational research broadly studies and examines factors that facilitate effective translation of research into everyday public health policies and programs; evaluates the effectiveness of the administrative, management, policy, healthcare and public health practice decisions and/or use of research knowledge; and describes the experience and roles of the stakeholders, practitioners and participants.

Previous efforts to accelerate the translation of research into public health practice and policy often failed to characterize the knowledge gap between evidence-based interventions and effective delivery; have not sufficiently evaluated the factors necessary for the successful adaptation of interventions or supporting infrastructure; and typically have not described the requirements for stakeholders’ collaboration to facilitate meaningful adoption by the target population or potential for broader public health uptake.

Likewise, dissemination of an intervention alone is often insufficient to change practice habits and result in health benefits. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions nationwide among children, adolescents, and adults and is considered one of the most serious health problems facing Americans today. There is a higher prevalence of obesity among ethnic minority groups and those with a lower family income.

Supported by the National Institutes of Health’s IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), project Principal Investigator Shah is developing a translational research plan acceptable to numerous, vital constituents with enough scientific rigors to continue support and provide meaningful results. “The Zuni Health Initiative” is community based participatory research conducting studies for educational and lifestyle interventions to create community engagement in modifying important behaviors.

The ultimate goal of Zuni Health Initiative is to increase the spread and usage of effective public health interventions based on “science that works,” so that the greatest health impact for an individual and community can be achieved with the greatest efficiency.

Likewise, the aim is to eliminate health disparities of obesity and related chronic conditions in Zuni Indians by identifying and understanding the barriers and promoting the healthier life style of exercise and nutritional interventions.The newly opened Zuni fitness center is fully equipped and will work with Zuni middle school children in prescribed exercise activities and one on one nutritional coaching.

The project is led by Shah and his certified staff and with the guidance from Zuni tribal governor Mr. Norman Cooeyate and his council members, along with Zuni IHS providers.

Messages: Zuni Council women, Ms. Pynesta - "I'm so glad that you now have a facility to work out of. I'm sure the staff is excited to get started. I know I'm anxious to see the program start for the middle school kids."

Dr. McNairy, associate director research infrastructure, NCRR, and director, Division of Research Infrastructure, NCRR: "Raj - this is to congratulate the Zuni Tribal Administration and the UNM School of Medicine on the grand opening of the Zuni Health Initiative/UNM Fitness Facility. What a marvelous day in the history of the Zuni Nation, since this is a giant step forward in assuring that the Nation will be even more healthy and will continue to make a substantial contribution for generations to come. We are pleased that we have been a part of this historic journey and want to wish all of you a long and healthy life. On a more personal note, I will wear the Zuni ring with much more joy having had an opportunity to work with such wonderful people who have such a proud history and tradition."

Dignitaries attending the event included:

Governor Norman Cooeyate; Head Council Women, Ms Shelly Chimoni; and council members Mr. Dixie Tsabetsaye, Ms. Winona Peynetsa and Ms. Charlotte Bradley.

Drs. Zager, Harford and Anderson represented UNMHSC, while Dr. Arterburn - PI of NMINBRE from NMSU and many other community leaders and members.