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Public Health Epidemiology Conversations Podcast

Episode #206 Child Health and Wellness with Denny MedicineBird, Oklahoma Tribal Epidemiology Center


Through the Feed the Children commercials he saw on TV when he was a child himself, Denny MedicineBird developed an interest in public health, although he didn’t know that’s what it was called at the time. Denny’s culture and upbringing inspired him to pursue the work that he is currently doing, which includes enhancing child health and wellness in a traditional community health setting. Denny is the program coordinator of the Child Health and Wellness Program initiated by the Oklahoma Area Tribal Epidemiology Center. Join us for today’s episode wherein Denny explains how this program is positively impacting child health and wellness through stakeholder engagement and the creation of coherent messages which are disseminated throughout the tribes situated within the Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas borders. Denny’s passion for his work runs deep, and his work is improving the lives of many.

Meet Denny

Denny MedicineBird is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne & Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma and is also Kiowa and Apache. He resides with his family in Jones, OK and has 2 sons, Dino and Berto. He is currently serving his 15th year in the Oklahoma Army National Guard as a medic for the Oklahoma Medical Readiness Detachment. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) in Community/ Public Health and is a current graduate student a UCO in their Master of Public Health- Community Engagement Program. Denny is the Wellness Around Traditional Community Health (WATCH) Program Coordinator for the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board and Oklahoma Tribal Epidemiology Center. His primary focus is serving this child’s health and wellness program to tribal communities in the Southern Plains region.

Key Takeaways From This Episode

  • The mission of the Oklahoma Area Tribal Epidemiology Center.

  • An introduction to today’s guest, Denny, and some background information about him.

  • Denny shares where his interest in public health originated.

  • What Denny’s work entails, and the population group they focus on.

  • The state of the Child Health and Wellness Program when Denny began working there.

  • Denny’s first role at the Oklahoma Area Tribal Epidemiology center.

  • How the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Denny’s program.

  • People who have been influential in developing the program alongside Denny.

  • Denny runs us through the various elements that make up the program.

  • Autonomy that is given to each tribe in order to deliver the program’s health messages as they see fit.

  • The size and scope of the program, and their plans for expansion in the future.

  • How Denny and his team evaluate the impacts of their program.

  • What Denny loves about his work.

Listen To This Podcast Episode

Career Advice to Public Health Students and Graduates

My best advice and encouragement would be to move towards your passion and really ask yourself what makes me happy. Then combine that passion with the foundation and skills you developed during your time in school and apply it to the work you want to do. My education and life experiences have fueled my passion towards a career in public health and I send my best wishes to those who are on a similar journey.

Oklahoma Area Tribal Epidemiology Center

During the interview, you will hear Chris refer to the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board, which is a non-profit foundation established in 1972 to provide service to all tribes in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. In 2004, the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board was awarded with funds from the Indian Health Service, which created the Oklahoma Area Tribal Epidemiology Center.

The mission of the Oklahoma Area Tribal Epidemiology Center is to improve the health of American Indian/Alaska Natives in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, by providing public health services in epidemiology, data management, data analysis, training, health promotion/disease prevention, and research through outreach and creative partnerships.

Tribal Epidemiology Centers

Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TEC) are Indian Health Service (IHS), division funded organizations who serve American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) Tribal and urban communities by managing public health information systems, investigating diseases of concern, managing disease prevention and control programs, responding to public health emergencies, and coordinating these activities with other public health authorities.

Tribal Epidemiology Centers provide various types of support and services due to the variation of the TECs organization structure, divisions, Tribal populations, and their mission and goals. There are currently 12 Tribal Epidemiology Centers in the United States.

Links Mentioned In This Episode


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