Brain Food: Home-Centered Healthcare for Native American Patients

Oct 2, 2014

The Navajo Nation spans three states and 27,000 square miles. Many homes are so remote and spread out that they don’t have addresses. And, that can make healthcare difficult, especially follow-up care after hospitalization. That’s why John Georgas is working on a computer project and mobile app to identify homes without street addresses to make healthcare access a little easier. 

The town of Chinle, near Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Nation.
Credit Nicole Gilbert/Cronkite News


“What the project is really centering on trying to do is to bring the notion, the idea of home, the notion of location into healthcare,” Georgas says.

John Georgas, associate director of the Informatics and Computing Program at Northern Arizona University.
Credit Courtesy photo

Georgas is the associate director of the Informatics and Computing Program at Northern Arizona University. He and other researchers are working on the ShiHoogan project, which in Navajo means “my home.” The computerized map and database will allow patients and medical professionals to find close or alternative healthcare facilities, and even talk through problems on the phone.

“You know when the roads are dry we can access the health clinic that we’re used to accessing, but when we’ve had rain, well, we know that road goes through a gully that’s now flooded out. So now we have to go through a different healthcare location and that brings up questions like do I know where an alternative is. Do I know how to get to it? How do I adjust to the challenges of again a not very robust infrastructure or transportation?” Georgas asks.

Georgas believes the ShiHoogan project is an opportunity for medical intervention, innovation and to help people living in rural, remote areas. He expects the system to be up and running by December.