Indigenous Pink Day


Dear Breast Cancer
by Tomeka McKague
AIHFS Medical Assistant

I wanted to introduce myself since you decided to invade my family 6 years ago. I am sure you gave signs that were ignored. You would go on to setup residence and you wouldn’t leave until you completed your mission. I often wonder do you know that she was a wonderful person. A mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend. She has four beautiful daughter’s and a son. Did you know that you left heartache, what if’s, many wishes and prayers unanswered. Do you even care that she was young, so full of life and had a smile that lit up a room. How about the thousands of woman and men that you decide to invade year after year. The homes you leave broken and depressed due to your uninvited presence……

The key to beating Breast Cancer is early detection. Self-examination and routine mammograms. It can and will save a life. Breast Cancer introduced itself to my family 6 years ago and it took, I think, the strongest of us all. My sister was given 6 months to live but she fought a good fight for 5 years. She lost her battle a little over a year ago and It’s still unbeliveable to me that she is gone.  It still hurts to know that I can’t call her phone and have her pick up to say I am okay. I can’t express  how important it is to get yearly mammograms and to follow-up on call backs. That could determine if you will be a survivor or have family missing you and wondering why.

  • In 2016, an estimated 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 61,000 new cases of non-invasive.
  • About 2,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2016. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000 invasive (in situ) breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death and the most common cancer found in American Indian/Alaska Native women. The goal of Indigenous Pink Day is to educate all indigenous people on the importance of early detection and remind men and women to keep up to date on their screenings.


Focus on Child Passenger Safety

By Carmen Mendoza King, Community Health Worker – Healthy Start

National Child Passenger Safety Week was Sunday, September 18th through Saturday, September 24th. The Week wrapped up on September 24th with National Seat Check Saturday—a call to action encouraging parents, other caretakers, and anyone responsible for driving with children to make sure that appropriate seating is being used when driving motorized vehicles. Taking the time to learn about child passenger safety is an opportunity to refresh knowledge on practical steps that may prevent motorized vehicle related injuries and fatalities among children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) motor vehicle injuries are one of the leading causes of death among children ages 12 and younger in the U.S. The CDC estimates that in 2014 over 121,350 children ages 0-12 were injured, and 604 children between these ages died in motor vehicle accidents. [1] Child passengers are at higher risk for dying in motor vehicle accidents when they are not buckled up, when they are passengers in a car being operated by a drunk driver, when child safety seats or booster seats are not used properly, or when exposed to any combination of these risk factors.

How can parents, caretakers, and other drivers responsible for the health and wellbeing of children practice safer seating practices? Becoming familiar with types of seating available for child passengers is one step toward promoting child passenger safety. Knowing how to use the type of car seat best suited for a child based on the child’s age and size can actively protect against serious injury and may save a child’s life.

This CDC chart (pictured below) demonstrates seating options for child passengers according to the child’s age and size.

Every type of child passenger seating recommended by the CDC has been found to protect children from physical injury or death resulting from a motor vehicle accident. The use of car seats in passenger vehicles can reduce the risk of death among infants (from 0-1 years old) by 71% and among toddlers (1-4 years old) by 54% according to the CDC (2016). Using a booster seat secured with a seatbelt can reduce the risk of a child passenger (ages 4-8) being injured in an accident by 45% when compared to only using a seatbelt. And lastly, the risk of serious injury and death while driving in motor vehicles can be lowered by almost half when adults and children properly use seatbelts.

If you are new to using car seats, or have questions on whether you are using a car seat correctly, here are some websites with helpful information:

  • features tips on how to find the right car seat according to a child’s age and size, and how to properly install a car seat.
  • The National Child Safety Board has designed a useful chart outlining car seating recommendations for children from birth to 12 years old.
  • The CDC’s Injury Prevention & page on Motor Vehicle Safety includes statistics on child passenger safety and information on how to reduce the risk of motor vehicle injury.

If you or a family you know is in need of a car seat, check out some of these local resources for assistance:

  • The Detroit Medical Center (DMC) partnered with Kohl’s Injury Prevention Program offers a Safe Travel Program.
  • Check out upcoming car seat check events hosted by the Michigan State Police at local fire department stations, shopping centers, health centers, and other convenient locations.
  • The Safe Kids coalition offers tips and pointers on car seat safety.
  • Beaumont (formerly Oakwood) Health System provides one on one assistance by helping you find someone near your home who can help show you how to properly install and use a car seat.



  1. CDC. Injury Prevention & Control: Motor Vehicle Safety- Child Passenger Safety [online]. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [19 August, 2016].

Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 4 – 10, 2016)

by Karen Marshall
Sacred Bundle Outreach and Training Coordinator

Here we are, easing out of summer and casting an eye toward fall and all it represents: Kiddoes back to school, cooler weather, stunning shows of color as the leaves change from luscious greens to their own brilliant hues. Soon, we’ll see the full Harvest Moon rising over the last of this year’s warm weather gardens.

Also arriving within the first few days of September is a day set aside internationally that brings our attention to supporting the lives of people around us who are thinking that life is no longer worth living. September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. The week around September 10 was established by the suicide prevention organizations based in this country as Suicide Prevention Week … and these days, it’s breaking boundaries and expanding to a full month of attention to preventing the preventable.

Yes, suicide is often preventable. And you can be a person who makes all the difference!

You … with or without formal training … have a role to play.

Knowledge and skills can be learned by anyone who has the heart to help and who takes the time to learn how to help save a life from suicide. Here at American Indian Health and Family Services, the Sacred Bundle Youth Suicide Prevention project offers workshops and trainings on a regular basis.  Interested in finding out more about what you can learn? Check out the information at the end of this piece, or contact Karen Marshall, our Outreach and Training Coordinator at or (313) 846-6030, ext. 1404.

9-1-16 gls logo

In order to mark Suicide Prevention Week this year, a number of national organizations that educate the general public about suicide prevention, intervention and post-vention have joined together in an informal way to promote a theme: It’s called Be The 1 to …

9-1-16 be the one

Here are 5 things anyone can do to help a people survive their struggle with thoughts and feelings about ending their life:

1. Be The 1 To…Ask. (About suicide)
2. Be The 1 To…Keep Them Safe. (By removing access to lethal means);
3. Be The 1 To…Be There. (By being present, listening with compassion and without judgment, letting them know you care about them);
4. Be The 1 To…Help Them Stay Connected. (To caring others—friends, family, therapists, clergy, teachers, coaches, etc.—and to the Lifeline and other 24/7 crisis care resources); and
5. Be The 1 To…Follow Up. (By checking in regularly with the person you are concerned about, for days and weeks after the crisis – be sure to let them know you are thinking about them, and that you are there to help if needed).

A similar project is Take 5 To Save Lives that invites you to spend 5 minutes learning 5 ways to be helpful to a person at risk of suicide. Website:

In addition to learning the specifics of how you can help a person at risk, you can also be part of changing the conversation around suicide. Stigma, myth, shame and denial have no place in saving lives from suicide. The subject was shrouded in silence for centuries, and it didn’t stop attempts or deaths. These days, we know that a caring community, open and honest conversation about difficult subjects, and access to good resources and care can make all the difference.

Wondering about resources?

AIHFS has affordable services for people of all ages who can benefit from behavioral health and/or medical care. Many times, treatment can include traditional, culturally-based ways and ceremonies for healing.

Trained crisis workers are available by text, chat or telephone through the Lifeline 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255). Website:

Or, text “GO” to 741741. Free, 24/7, confidential.

Do you know a military Veteran at risk? Check this out:

9-1-16 veteran

Often, all it takes is 1. Can that be you?

What is a Pow wow?

By John Marcus
Communications Specialist
Turtle Clan
Mohawk, Chippewa, Pueblo


Like a lot of things, a pow wow is going to be different to everyone. According to Wikipedia “A pow wow (also powwow or pow-wow) is a social gathering held by many different Native American communities.” Their article, at least as of this current time, is pretty decent in its description. Check it out if you want to read more about the technical aspects of a pow wow:


On a more personal note though, I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s dancing at pow wows. My Dad used to tell me about the time when I was less than 5 years old and my family was at a pow wow in Tama, Iowa. We were probably on the way to Taos, New Mexico, where my Dad was born and raised. He said he was doing the pipe dance which involves 2 male dancers, each with a pipe and rattle. The song has several stops in it. My dad said he was out there and the crowd was really applauding at the stops and he thought he was doing really good but then he realized I had went out to dance too and the crowd couldn’t believe this little guy was stopping on time.  I had the advantage though of hearing those songs in our family house, sitting on my dad’s knee while he would sing those songs and more.


Dancing was something that was in my blood. My dad grew up with ceremonial dancing and intertribal dancing as part of his life. While still living at home, he even traveled some to dance with his dad, Ben Marcus, and other relatives.

In this picture my dad is on the left. His dad is on the right. He told me of the time they left Taos Pueblo, New Mexico to dance in Texas, probably in the 1940’s and they were sitting in a restaurant waiting to eat and they just kept waiting until finally an employee of that restaurant, who was a minority, approached them and asked them to come outside where he explained it was pointless to stay there because they wouldn’t get served since they were non-whites. After that he said they never went back to dance in Texas.


Times have changed but one of the more important things about pow wows that hasn’t changed is we always have blessings or prayers to begin our pow wows.  Here in metro Detroit during the 1970’s, John Shano would be asked to do the honor of spiritually cleansing the circle. He would be wearing a horse tail as part of his regalia as he used a huge turtle rattle dancing from the center of the circle to each of the 4 directions.


At pow wows throughout Michigan Chief Little Elk of Mt. Pleasant would be asked to help begin our gatherings. At the appropriate time he would be announced and he would bring a 2 sided hand drum with him. He would share words and a song. He was one of the oldest people I would see participating as I went to these various gatherings throughout Michigan and Southern Ontario. At the time I didn’t know what it was but it felt good see to this elder slowing making his way up towards the microphone. I don’t remember anyone telling me I had to respect this man but I could see that is what you do because that was how he was being treated. Like they say, children learn by what they see modeled around them.

It’s been more than 30 years since I’ve danced, like in this picture from around 1980, and I can now relate with what I used to hear all the time as a dancer: dance for those that can’t be here or can no longer dance.


These songs and dances came from the spirit world and speak to our spirit. When you are dancing it is part of the cycle of all things natural. The creator gave us these ways to be in rhythm together. What you are seeing in that circle is all things in harmony: the animals (dancer regalia), the humans, the spirits and of course mother earth, the giver of all life.


I hope you have the opportunity to stop by our AIHFS annual pow wow and health fair and join us in this harmony of life. It will be, Saturday, August 27, from noon until 5pm at Romanowski Park which is around the corner from us here at AIHFS. For more info here is the facebook event for it

PrEP for HIV Prevention


by Alice Kachman, M.D.
AIHFS Medical Director/Provider

PrEP = Pre-exposure prophylaxis. It’s a way of preventing HIV infection in people at high risk for HIV exposure but are presently HIV negative. It’s a daily pill with two well-known HIV treatment medications. Studies done so far show a reduction of HIV infection by 92% in people who take the pill EVERY DAY. PrEP does not work this well if it isn’t taken every day.

PrEP is for people who are HIV negative but are at risk of getting HIV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends PrEP for people who do not have HIV and are at a substantial risk for HIV. This includes HIV transmission by sexual contact and people who inject illicit drugs.

For sexual transmission, HIV risk includes an ongoing relationship with a partner with HIV, gay or bisexual man who has had anal sex without a condom or has a recent diagnosis of a STD in the past 6 months or a heterosexual man or woman who does not regularly use condoms with partners of unknown HIV status but at high risk for HIV (inject illicit drugs or has bisexual male partners).

People who use PrEP must take the drug every day and return to their health provider every 3 months for a repeat HIV test, prescription refill, and follow up.

PrEP is only for people who have a substantial risk for HIV infection.

AIHFS can help. If you are HIV negative and think you are at a high risk for getting HIV, make an appointment to talk about PrEP. It can save your life.


Dental Therapist Bill in Michigan Senate

by Ashley Tuomi,
Chief Executive Officer

There was a new bill introduced (Senate Bill 1013) June 7th that will provide licensure for dental therapists to practice in Michigan. One of the great things about this bill is that it will enable dentists to delegate routine restorative procedures to dental therapists working under their supervision, including assessments, simple cavity preparation, restoration and simple extractions. If you are unsure of what a dental therapist is, you can think of it as similar to a physician’s assistant in the medical realm. Basically a dental therapist is a mid-level dental provider.

Who else is using Dental Therapists?

Some of you may have heard of Dental Therapists before. That is because this model was successfully implemented in Alaska starting in 2004. Recently, tribes in Oregon and Washington have also began adding Dental Therapists to their clinics. The states of Minnesota and Maine have already passed legislations to license dental therapists as well. There are also many other states considering this right now as well.

So why is important?

  • It can be difficult to find a dentist and especially dentists that take Medicaid in many counties. In fact, 4 million American Indians and Alaska Natives live in counties with dental provider shortage areas, including nearly half of all American Indian children.
  • In 2014, almost 60% of children on Medicaid did not see a dentist (Michigan is in the bottom 10 states).
  • Lack of access to oral health leads to tooth-loss, pain, and many other health complications.

If you want to read more about this bill You can read the full text of the bill here.

How to support:

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. When I did my doctoral research on dental anxiety, I became more aware of the issues related to oral health. Through my research I found that lack of access to oral health is a major contributor to dental anxiety and plays a huge role in the vicious cycle of pain and fear.


Have you had problems finding a dentist that takes your insurance?

Dr. J. Nadine Gracia visits AIHFS

In May, we were fortunate to have some time to meet with Dr. J. Nadine Gracia who is the  Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health.  Our Chief Executive Officer, Ashley Tuomi, attended the Mayor’s Summit on Health Equity, where she also got the opportunity to meet with a small group of other minority leaders in Detroit and Dr. Gracia. Dr. Gracia then took time out of her busy schedule to come here to American Indian Health and Family Services for a tour. We are very grateful for her time and were happy to show her all of the great things that happen here at AIHFS.

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