Healthy Nations: Reducing Substance Abuse Among Native Americans

An RWJF National Program

Field of Work: substance abuse in Native American tribes

Problem Synopsis: Native Americans suffer disproportionately compared with other groups in the United States from diseases and death due to alcohol, drugs and substance abuse.

Synopsis of the Work: Healthy Nations®: Reducing Substance Abuse Among Native Americans, launched in 1992 sought to help Native American and Alaskan Native people find ways to address the problem of substance abuse in their communities.

Key Results

  • According to interviews with national program staff, RWJF personnel, local project staff and national advisory committee members, the Healthy Nations national program had these overall results:

    • Governing bodies and major employers in some communities enacted new rules and policies aimed at reducing substance use and abuse. For example, tribal leaders passed resolutions prohibiting substance use among leaders and employees.
    • A group of new community leaders was trained; many have gone on to more responsible positions in areas that address substance abuse and other health issues facing their communities.
    • Communities formed coalitions that continued working together to solve health issues.
    • Healthy Nations projects implemented an average of 722 activities and events over the life of their projects, and served an average of 10,000 people annually, according to the national program office. Activities group into four areas: (1) public awareness; (2) community-wide prevention; (3) early identification and treatment; (4) substance abuse treatment and aftercare.

Evaluation Conclusion: A formal assessment of Healthy Nations started several years after the program began. In 2003, the team of evaluators concluded: "The program encouraged participation in traditional ceremonies for alcohol- and drug-abuse prevention. The program emphasized abstinence and/or moderation of drinking practices…. Almost all of the variables cluster in these areas, which lends support to the efficacy of the Healthy Nations Initiative…."