Skip to Content

A Partnership With A Tribal Council Sets Bold Goals


As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, diabetes and obesity are major problems in Native American communities. In honor of Native American Heritage Month, we’re featuring several of our very own Leaders and Supporters who are working to help Native American children become healthier. Leader Ted O’Dell is the Michigan Campaign Manager for the American Heart Association and received funding from Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association that works to help young people eat healthier and be more active.

“The Michigan Native American population has large on- and off-reservation populations in Central Michigan, Northern Michigan and the Western Upper Peninsula, and they also have a diverse and widespread membership within the greater Lansing and Detroit areas as well,” Ted explains.

In a new partnership between the American Heart Association and The Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan (ITCM), Ted’s job is to share information at the grassroots level, and help the Tribal Health Department leaders and members understand more about the movement to reduce childhood obesity. The Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan (ITCM) is a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for its twelve member tribes in the development of programs and policies to help improve their economy, education and quality of life.

“Both the white population and Native American population have more obese children than any previous generation,” says Ted. Because of this, the partnership hopes to reduce childhood obesity by 20 percent by the year 2020.

The team’s strategy focuses heavily on eliminating food deserts, using tactics such as advocating for bigger budgets for initiatives like Healthy Food Financing, Healthy Food Access and Healthy Corner Stores in state appropriations. They are also advocating for policies that encourage schools to emphasize physical education, health education, comprehensive school physical activity programs and nutrition standards.

Ted notes that the biggest challenges the partnership faces are getting basic healthy food facts in front of the public and educating people as to why they should opt for fresh fruits, vegetables and produce versus processed foods.

Though this partnership is only in the beginning stages, Ted is hopeful: “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.”

To learn more about Ted and his work, you can contact him through his profile here.