"I encourage other Tribes to address all hazards that may force the Tribe to take action," Fila urges. "If they don't address the hazards that are in their area of concern, then they will not know how to address the risk which the hazards bring."
He and the
have truly taken this approach to heart. Their Zika work includes preparing the Tribe through education and placing plans, resources, and other preparedness items in place. Through collaboration with the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), the Tribe was able to benefit from training provided to the Fort Yuma Indian Health Service (IHS) facility to help clinicians identify potential Zika cases. The Tribe also developed preparedness items such as Zika magnets displaying the slogan "Fight the Bite" and Zika kits containing educational information and insect repellent. Additionally, the Tribe updated their social media program and mobile app and even created an emergency management web page to share Zika preparedness information. The Cocopah Tribe has also had multiple successful community clean-ups to reduce breeding sites for mosquitoes.
The Tribal council supports all activities that will help the Tribe prepare and take action on issues that may affect the life and property of the Tribe. The community knows that the Tribal leaders are dedicated to the well-being of the Tribal community and have department directors that have been addressing all hazards that the Tribe may face. Various types of partnerships can also benefit Tribal communities in their public health and emergency preparedness plans. For this reason, the Cocopah Tribe is engaged in ongoing collaborations with county health, Indian Health Service (IHS), local college extensions, other area Tribes, the state of Arizona, and the federal government. The local Indian Health Service environmental health officer is a vital partner and a valuable resource for the Tribe. The state health department, Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA), and National Indian Health Board (NIHB) have also supported Cocopah to proceed with the actions they are undertaking.
However, the new and unique threat posed by Zika means that work is not always straightforward, especially for Zika trailblazers like the Cocopah. Unsurprisingly, the Tribe has faced some challenges while designing and implementing their Zika preparedness activities. Challenges include small staff size and, as can always occur with partnerships, occasional difficulty coordinating with other jurisdictions. Moreover, increased traffic in the area may increase the risk of spreading disease. Cocopah Tribal members may travel to the Mexican Reservation of the Kwapa to visit the other part of their Tribe who are divided by international political boundaries. During these trips, Tribal members may pass through areas at risk of Zika, dengue, or chikungunya. Because of this, Mr. Fila states, "
we need a better solution for all to get educated on vector issues."
Nevertheless, Fila emphasizes, this work is critical to the Tribe's wellbeing. The Cocopah Tribe is located in southwest Arizona, right in the
of Aedes aegypti - the mosquito which is of greatest concern for transmitting Zika Virus. "We are in the preparedness cycle full time. We see [mosquito] activity in 120
F temperatures," Fila states. "The climate here in southwest Arizona is ideal [for mosquitoes] to adapt and become stronger."
Accessing accurate, real-time information about Zika is critical to integrate into planning and share with the community. The Cocopah Indian Tribe has a very robust social media program and mobile app to make sure the Tribal community is receiving information to ensure their personal safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA) are among the sources the Cocopah Tribe uses to find accurate and up-to-date information about Zika.
|Mike Fila conducting community outreach at cultural celebration
Since Cocopah has seen the benefit of their work within their community, they recommend other Tribes follow in their footsteps.
Fila also offers advice and support to guide Tribes just starting out. "I would reach out to existing programs or meet with Tribal leaders and discuss how they would like to proceed with Zika preparedness activities. We encourage other Tribes to seek grants that will help fund special projects where Tribes excel.
We have had great success with the many ways we take action here and would always be open to assist any Tribe that may need help."
Learn more about Cocopah's Emergency Management work on Zika virus by watching this