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Cultural sources of strength and resilience: A case study of holistic wellness boxes for COVID-19 response in Indigenous communities

Aulandez, Kevalin M. W.
Walls, Melissa L.
Weiss, Nicole M.
Sittner, Kelley J.
Gillson, Stefanie L.
Tennessen, Elizabeth N.
Maudrie, Tara L.
Leppi, Ailee M.
Rothwell, Emma J.
Bolton-Steiner, Athena R.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has had disproportionately severe impacts on Indigenous peoples in the United States compared to non-Indigenous populations. In addition to the threat of viral infection, COVID-19 poses increased risk for psychosocial stress that may widen already existing physical, mental, and behavioral health inequities experienced by Indigenous communities. In recognition of the impact of COVID-19 related psychosocial stressors on our tribal community partners, the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health Great Lakes Hub began sending holistic wellness boxes to our community partners in 11 tribal communities in the Midwestern United States and Canada in summer of 2020. Designed specifically to draw on culturally relevant sources of strength and resilience, these boxes contained a variety of items to support mental, emotional, cultural, and physical wellbeing. Feedback from recipients suggest that these wellness boxes provided a unique form of COVID-19 relief. Additional Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health offices have begun to adapt wellness boxes for the cultural context of their regions. This case study describes the conceptualization, creation, and contents of these wellness boxes and orients this intervention within a reflection on foundations of community-based participatory research, holistic relief, and drawing on cultural strengths in responding to COVID-19.