The 2024 GHWIC Annual Gathering: Celebrating and Inspiring Together

The fifth annual Gathering for the Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country (GHWIC) National Gathering was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, under the theme “Ascending to a Healthier Future – Fostering Habits Through Tradition and Community.” This two-day event aimed to share best practices, showcase promising initiatives and inspire attendees. The Gathering saw 166 participants from across the GHWIC network, alongside 26 CDC staff members and 16 external presenters, all coming together to foster community and collaboration.

Planned by the Coordinating Center for GHWIC (CCG) (Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium) and informed by the Gathering Planning Committee—comprising GHWIC recipients and CDC staff—the event featured a comprehensive agenda. Each day began with an opening prayer, followed by keynote speeches, recipient and partner presentations, and wellness breaks. Additional activities included a poster session, open office hours, and evaluation sessions.

Drawing from feedback from previous conferences, the 2024 Gathering prioritized networking, comfort, and learning opportunities. A notable feature was the “bingo” networking session designed by CCG staff. In this interactive activity, attendees used Bingo cards to meet other GHWIC recipients and collect stamps. Tables were named by gemstones and attendees appreciated the assigned seating as a way to meet new people. Local artists were given tables in the lobby as a way for attendees to celebrate the local culture. Wellness breaks, which included a walking challenge, a self-defense lesson, and a guided relaxation activity, helped attendees stay active and refreshed. The event also offered a lactation/breastfeeding room and a quiet room for relaxation and unwinding.

The Gathering was distinguished by its exceptional presentations. Day one featured Dr. Nicole Bowman, who discussed integrating traditional knowledge into evaluation and Indigenous advocacy, followed by Jim and Susan LaBelle’s moving presentation on historical trauma and boarding school healing. On day two, Michele Suina from the Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center provided an inspiring keynote on promoting health and wellness through ancestral knowledge and creativity. A highlight of the conference was the gust visit by Miss Indian World, Tori McConnnell (Yurok/Karuk), who encouraged GHWIC staff to continue doing the hard work, emphasized the importance of GHWIC work, and sang a traditional song. 

The feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive. With a 63% response rate, 50 individuals highlighted the value of connecting with like-minded people and learning from each other, 16 found the keynote speakers inspirational, and 45 appreciated hearing about other programs’ work. All sessions received an “outstanding” rating from the majority of respondents. Overall, 80% rated the Gathering experience as “Very Good,” 19% as “Good,” and 1% as “Fair.”

The success of the 2024 GHWIC Annual Gathering was a testament to the hard work, planning, and partnership-building efforts of everyone involved as well as creativity. It provided a valuable platform for GHWIC recipients to connect, learn, and draw inspiration from one another, paving the way for healthier AI/AN communities.