Water Is K'é
Water is K’é elevates the central role of water to each Diné person’s identity, physical and spiritual health, celebrating Indigenous strength to bring about positive change.
The relationship between people and their environment is a major determinant of health. On Navajo Nation, decades of uranium mining and unsafe levels of uranium and arsenic documented in household water sources have led to long-standing concerns about water contamination and the public water system. Lack of access to clean water along with aggressive marketing of sugar-sweetened beverages are significant drivers of disparities related to childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes risk. Diet-related diseases are on the rise among Indigenous youth, particularly in communities affected by food and water insecurity.
Yet, Diné people maintain a vital relationship with water through Diné culture. COPE conducted a community assessment and found that a majority of adults felt it is important to incorporate traditional Diné values and teachings when deciding what food and beverages to offer their children. Many people connected water (Tó) to their identity as Diné people and expressed a need to revitalize Diné lifeways, which had been disrupted by the introduction of Western diets and culture. This highlights the importance of Diné teachings on influencing healthy choices.
Based on community input, our team concluded that promoting water in Navajo communities is not only vital for physical health, but for spiritual health as well. COPE implemented Water is K’é, a community-based intervention designed to promote healthy beverage consumption and decrease sugary beverages among Navajo preschool children. COPE creates and distributes healthy beverage kits to any community stakeholder or organization such as schools. The kits include an infused pitcher, cutting board, gloves, knife, cups, $25 gift card and apron.
Along with the healthy beverage kits, our team has worked to promote water in the communities through healthy beverage demos (infused water and smoothies), joining the November NB3 Water Challenge, creating local champion posters, and participating in community events.
We are currently working with our Water is K’e Community Advisory Group to create a curriculum/toolkit that parents can complete at home with their children or with ECE teachers in the classroom.
Our Water is K’é work is primarily conducted by our research partner Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), which is the research arm of COPE. Our supporters include Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Notah Begay III (NB3) Foundation, and MEDICC.
Tó Kits Distributed
Water Is K'é:
Community Science Project
Supported by DigDeep and Nalgene and in collaboration with AGU Thriving Earth Exchange. As a community project location, COPE is able to connect with AGU Thriving Earth Exchange and Environmental Scientists. The Water Is K'é program will work with help three communities on a community learning project on the Navajo Nation to help address answer the question, "Is My Water Safe." The community site mentors are recruiting six youth, two from each those communities and the scientists are training them in water testing and helping them share findings back to their communities. The youth will be matched with are recruited by site mentors from local education and public health sectors, who will help them identify and test water sources in the community. The goal of the project is to build confidence in drinking water. Safe water resources will be promoted with signage and outreach. This project is primarily concerned on testing public water sources, but students have the choice to test other water in their communities as well. In the unlikely event that any water sources are found to be unsafe, the MEQ team and project scientists will help highlight the need for improvement and work with the community to find ways to address the issues.
Water Champion Posters
We created Water Champion Posters to encourage water consumption among children and the community. Navajo champions from within the community emphasized the importance of water for each poster, which were printed and distributed at local organizations, health clinics, chapter houses, schools and other public areas.
Click on the posters to download and share!