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September/October 2011Vol. 12, No. 7Safe Baby Discussions Among Urban American Indian Parents

In May, the Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) released findings from its qualitative research project that gathered views, attitudes, and insight from American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) parents about keeping babies healthy and safe. The report, Discussions With Urban American Indian and Alaska Native Parents: Keeping Babies Healthy and Safe, and its findings will be used to develop a communications campaign aimed at improving infant mortality rates in AI/AN communities. 

The study was conducted using a series of four focus groups and four one-on-one discussions with 39 AI/AN parents. Because the majority of AI/AN families live in urban areas, focus groups and conversations were held in urban Indian health organizations in four areas with some of the highest populations of AI/ANs. Discussions revolved around neutrally worded questions on parent-perceived barriers to and facilitators for keeping babies safe and healthy. Discussions were taped and transcribed, and responses were coded according to themes and subthemes. The 11 major themes that emerged included:

  • The concept of "safe and healthy baby" regarding physical, emotional, and environmental aspects
  • Health and safety as they relate to activities and behaviors
  • Barriers to health and safety
  • Facilitators
  • Worries
  • Sources of information
  • Sources of support
  • The role for men/dads
  • Communication channels and messages
  • Suggestions
  • Urban life and urban Indian health organizations

Cultural practices, teachings, and traditions were highlighted in discussions regarding actions and behaviors that keep babies safe and healthy. Additionally, violence and experiences with violence emerged as a subtheme, and conversation from both mothers and fathers focused largely on "breaking the cycle" in order to provide a safe environment for babies. Other barriers to keeping babies safe and healthy included lack of support, shortage of resources such as transportation, minimal follow-up care from health-care providers, and lack of accessible and affordable child care.
The full report can be viewed on the UIHI website: (2.80 MB)