Francine Gachupin is an assistant professor of family and community medicine at the University of Arizona. She helped edit Health and Social Issues of Native American Women (Greenwood Publishing, 2012), the first book that compiles research specifically about the health of Native American women. The book details challenges that Native American women face with health issues, specifically diabetes.
Can you describe the inspiration behind this research?
Within the Native culture, the mother, the woman, plays a very prominent role for her significant other, for her children. They're essentially the matriarch for those around them, and so they're a very powerful source and force. We're trying to shed light on the various challenges faced by women ... their environment, the people that they interface with and connect with on a day-to-day basis. There's also the culture, the spirituality, the religious parts that feed into all of this, so there's some optimism. We certainly see the glass as half full. (We are) trying to bring some of those different ideas and realities to people who may not know them too extensively.
Many researchers contributed to this report. How did you go about finding those researchers and compiling their work?
Dr. Jennie Joe (a retired professor of family and consumer sciences) is the lead editor on this book and she's a Native Navajo woman who is very well known and well respected in Indian country, especially among Native scholars. She's the one who approached me, and she essentially was the one who invited the majority of the authors to the book. She's been doing research for decades—you name it, she's worked on it—and she's very knowledgeable. A lot of the women authors that contributed to the book are part of Dr. Joe's extensive network.
Was there anything you were surprised by?
The authors really went above and beyond to get substantiating data to support their views and to really do a well-rounded review of each of these different topic areas. If you read any of the chapters, the history that's given, the different networks that are involved with the particular issues, those are very well-articulated. Readers benefit because a lot of the work's really been done for them. Of the authors that we have, all but one are Native women, so we really did try to have the Native voice come through in the book.
What was it like to be among the first researchers to explore the issue of the health of Native American women?
I feel very honored to have been asked to co-edit a book of this caliber and to have worked with the authors. Each of them are well-respected researchers. They come from backgrounds that are very humble, and yet they have all accomplished tremendous amounts. (Their work) brings to bear the challenges that women face, and I don't think it's unique to Native women. Many women from many different backgrounds have these similar challenges.
What's next for you in terms of research?
I'm still very interested in Native health, so it'll primarily be Native areas. But one thing that we've not mentioned that's an area that I'm very interested in is human-subjects protection, and so one of the things I'm working on is to start a class about international indigenous ethics—making sure that research within indigenous populations is happening as it should, keeping in mind respective individuals and communities alike.