Tulalip Tribes' smoking cessation program benefits local children

From left, Arlington “Organ Lady” Kathy Ketchum gave Tulalip Elementary students Deandra Grant and Codeey Johnny a hand-on look at smokers’ lungs in December of 2009. - File Photo
From left, Arlington “Organ Lady” Kathy Ketchum gave Tulalip Elementary students Deandra Grant and Codeey Johnny a hand-on look at smokers’ lungs in December of 2009.
— image credit: File Photo

TULALIP — The Tulalip Tribes have spent more than $300,000 a year on smoking cessation programs for Tribal members and the surrounding community, and a recent grant from the Tribes will give kids throughout the county a firsthand look at the damage done by smoking and other unhealthy lifestyle choices.

The Tulalip Tribes and the Providence General Foundation have provided grants totaling $135,000 for the next three years to the Providence Medical Center’s “Inside Out: The Original Organ Show,” so that this health program can be provided at no charge to Snohomish County public middle and high schools.

“Inside Out” features Providence Regional clinical educators who use real human organs to show how lifestyle choices affect the inside of the body. This hands-on demonstration includes donated body organs such as an aorta with fatty plaque build-up, smokers’ lungs laden with tar, a heart with a bullet hole, a fragile brain and spinal cord, and a liver that’s been hardened due to alcohol abuse.

Nadine Carter, Tobacco Cessation Program coordinator for the Tulalip Health Clinic, explained that the Tribes’ smoking cessation programs aim to reduce smoking among not only young people, but also people with diabetes and pregnant women. These programs have conducted outreach campaigns through schools, public events such as health fairs, and at the Tribes’ Health Clinic, in addition to promoting tobacco cessation through advertising and health information in the media.

“Our long-term goal is to reduce the burden of diseases related to smoking,” Carter said. “We also intend to strengthen the long-term partnerships between healthcare providers, and to improve our clinic services to better assist Tribal members, and in certain cases, the larger surrounding community. I have a lot of clients in the Arlington and Darrington areas.”

Tulalip Tribal Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. noted that some tobacco companies use Native American cultural images and symbols to promote their products, which is why he considers it especially important to focus on prevention among Tribal youth and adults alike.

“They slip in words like ‘natural’ in the brand names to build image, credibility and sales within the Native American community,” Sheldon said. “Here at Tulalip and throughout Indian country, we face an uphill battle in addressing the use of tobacco.”

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