The Navajo Cornell Field Health Project

By on June 29, 2011 - 7:00am

This week I processed a small collection of materials related to the Navajo Cornell Field Health Project.

The Navajo Cornell Field Health Research Project was co-sponsored by the Division of Indian Health of the U.S. Public Health Service, Cornell University Medical College, and the Navajo Tribal Council. According to the 1957 Navajo Yearbook, the two initial goals were "to define the proper concerns of a health program among a people such as the Navajo and second to attempt to devise practicable means for the delivery of the necessary health services in a form acceptable to the people." Many Farms-Rough Rock area of the Navajo Reservation in Arizona was the site of the project. From July 1955 to May 1956, the project was organized including building the central clinic facilities and organizing and training the staff and volunteers. The official opening ceremony of the central clinic on May 8, 1956 included two medicine men.

Sixteen people staffed the clinic. Three physicians, two public health nurses, and a social anthropologist were the professional staff. Ten Navajos assisted the project as health visitors, interpreters, drivers, and laboratory technicians. Students from Cornell University Medical College and Cornell University-New York Hospital School of Nursing took field courses there.
According to the 1957 Navajo Yearbook, as well as offering health services to the Navajo at the clinic, they initially investigated three major studies: a survey in depth of the health status of the community, Navajo Health Visitor Program, and a study on the impact of the project on the community. The survey in depth involved diagnostic studies of both Navajo patients and healthy persons. The Navajo Health Visitors Program trained Navajos in basic medical training so they could aid the professional staff in visiting the Navajo people. Some of the Navajo health visitors also served as interpreters. The third study on the impact of the community focused on the role of medicine men and changes in Navajo acceptance of modern medicine. Later additional studies focused on specific diseases such as diarrhea and tuberculosis or medical health issues facing the Navajo people.
The project ended in July 1962.

Additional information on the project can be found in the Walsh McDermott, MD (1909-1981) Papers. Please contact the archives if you are interested in reviewing these collections.

Blog Category: Recently Processed Collections

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