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PTs and PTAs with limited experience providing care to individuals who are Native American: Beware of assumptions. Some providers might think it's simple ("patients are patients"), while others worry that differences are insurmountable ("how can I possibly understand this complex, multifaceted culture?"). The truth, according to an upcoming APTA Magazine article, is somewhere in the middle, and requires providers to accept what they don't know, think carefully about how they provide care, and, most important, be open, curious, and respectful.

Coming in the November issue of APTA Magazine: "Physical Therapy for Native American Populations." Experts interviewed for the article include Deidrea Salabye, PT, DPT, senior PT at the Tséhootsooí Medical Center in Arizona; LDCR Sarah Lyrata, PT, DPT, a PT in the U.S. Public Health Service stationed at Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage, Alaska; and Natalie O'Neal, PT, DPT, assistant professor at Tufts University and vice chair of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Indigenous Innovation and Health Equity.

Part backgrounder on the history and current cultural environment that can contribute to Native Americans' attitudes about health care providers, part assumption-tester that includes real-world examples of how providers' cultural insensitivity can impede care, the article serves as an entry-level guide to understanding how to move forward with a more culturally competent approach to practice with the Native American patient population.

That forward movement requires providers to understand that the Native American culture isn't monolithic, and that broader social determinants of health also need to be taken into consideration — factors such as poverty, the prevalence of comorbidities, and ease of access to the clinic. It's an understanding that can only be arrived at through honesty and openness, according to Lyrata, who is quoted as saying the "recognizing what we don't know, and coming to the table with humility, curiosity, and eagerness to learn and understand helps us become better providers and helps our care to be well-received."

Look for "Physical Therapy for Native American Populations" in the November issue of APTA Magazine, the association's monthly member publication, in both print and digital formats.

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