IHB launches programs on Sexual Health and Education

Flyer from the Indian Health Board for its "Honor Your Body" campaign.

By Hannah Broadbent

If you’ve been at any bus stops, light rail stations or any high-traffic area in South Minneapolis you’ve probably noticed Indian Health Board (IHB) sponsored flyers that read “Honor Your Body and Your Culture”. These flyers are part of a much larger effort to normalize the conversation around sex.

“Through boarding schools and assimilation our ideas of sexuality were influenced by Christianity and colonization and many stories and teachings have been lost,” said Community Health Educator for IHB, Delilah Robb, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

She said sexual health and education includes a wide array of topics like body image, gender identity, sexual orientation, reproductive health, love and affection.

Delilah Robb is the Community Health Educator for the IHB in Minneapolis.

“‘Honor Your Body and Culture’ means by protecting yourself you are honoring your body and self which aligns with American Indian cultural values,” Robb said.

IHB held listening sessions and interviewed 13 community members, including adults and children, to find common themes around the perception of sexual health in the Indian Community. IHB stated their goal is to bring sexual health awareness to the American Indian Community in a way that is not intimidating or shameful. Robb says that with that awareness IHB hopes to provide more education and to increase sexual healthcare services like STD testing and birth control.

There were two listening sessions, one with youth and one with adults, where the attendees were asked questions around sexual health. Some questions like “How would you like to get information around sexual health?” prompted the same answer from both groups, “traditional stories” and “clinic”. Other questions about barriers in communication varied from parents to youth.

Robb said the listening sessions helped her, as the Community Health Educator, understand the community’s sexual healthcare needs and opinions. She said community driven health promotion and prevention should be the heartbeat of all community work especially when working with the American Indian community.

“We are incorporating what we learned from the listening session into practice by incorporating cultural activities and teachings into lessons and by holding space to talk openly about sexual health and all related topics,” Robb said.

The initial goal was to share the listening session findings, print campaign and videos at an event in April at a community even in April but Covid-19 forced Robb to release the information digitally. Despite the initial setback, IHB will still be hosting online education classes for parents and youth.

Youth Circle will be held once a month throughout the 2020-2021 school year for 11 to 17-year-olds. Parent Circle will be held twice a month October-December and will help parents and caregivers learn and share ideas about how to navigate and teach sexual health education to their children. Both groups will be lead by Robb.

“Sexuality is a part of each one of us and it’s not something to feel ashamed about,” Robb said. “Traditional stories and teachings give us lessons on how to be in harmony with ourselves and others, but they also teach respect and truth. I try to incorporate traditional knowledge and teaching as much as possible in my groups.”

To register for Youth Circle, see: https://forms.gle/jAAmnNVrgSLr4y696

For the Parent Circle, see: https://forms.gle/dC8d3TPiRQh2pA398.

For more information about education groups and classes, contact Delilah Robb at 612-721-9879 or Delilah.Robb@indianhealthboard.com

Call 612-721-9800 to make an appointment for STD testing or birth control.