TEC News

TEC News

RMTEC Success Story March 2018

Success Stories, TEC News
Partnerships with the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, Epidemiology Center (RMTEC)

Over the past year, the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, Epidemiology Center (RMTEC) has been working with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) to better address specific American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) heath concerns in Montana and Wyoming, respectfully. This initiative arose following the development of two new Memoranda of Understanding: one between RMTEC and DPHHS and the other between RMTEC and WDH.


A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is a type of cooperative agreement between two parties over a mutual sentiment.


It has language on collaborative efforts and other rules of engagement for partnership to better serve the Tribal Communities in both states. It also offered a more comprehensive replacement to the Data Sharing Agreements RMTEC had in the past. The new Memoranda between RMTEC and each state health department focused more broadly on the individual partnerships themselves rather than single projects. This capacity-building approach emphasizes ways that the partnerships can work jointly to address multiple tribal public health issues. Each state health department brainstormed with RMTLEC to consider the prominent tribal public health concerns in their respective state and the joint initiatives that best spoke to each tribal public health concern. The resulting Memoranda documented initiatives that both parties agreed upon and outlined the parameters of the partnership, including providing technical assistance when needed and establishing channels of communication. The Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council, Epidemiology Center is looking forward to a renewed partnership with each state health department and hopes to identify even more approaches for better serving the tribes in Montana and Wyoming.


Montana DPHHS

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Wyoming Department of Health

The Opioid Crisis Impact on Native American Communities

TEC News
AASTEC recently produced and disseminated a new fact sheet on the impact of the opioid crisis among Native American communities. Key findings demonstrate that overdose deaths due to any type of opioid use have been on the rise among Native Americans since 2000.


The current opioid-related overdose death rate for Native Americans nationwide is 13.7 deaths per 100,000 population, which exceeds the national rate of 13.1 per 100,000.


The opioid overdose death rate among Native American males significantly exceeds the rate among Native American females (10.0 per 100,000 vs. 7.0 per 100,000). Among youth, more than 1 in 10 Native American high school students in New Mexico (11%) used a prescription pain medication without a doctor’s order in the past 30 days, and high school students who used a prescription pain medication also used heroin in the past 30 days (22%).

The fact sheet concludes with strategies that can be adopted at the individual, family and community level to reduce the harmful impact of opioids.

2018 Tribal Youth Health Policy Fellowship

TEC News

Description: The National Indian Health Board’s second cohort of Fellows will consist of 12 Native youth from around the country to engage throughout the year in Indian health policy and programming efforts. The Fellows will engage in Indian health policy solutions, tell their personal story, and advocate for changes in the healthcare and public health systems important to their Tribal communities.

The Fellowship provides youth with key opportunities for relationship- and skills-building that allows them to return home feeling empowered, connected to other Native youth, and well equipped to be the next generation of advocates for Indian health.

Deadline: April 6, 2018

Apply Here

NWTEC Success Story – February 2018

Success Stories, TEC News
NW Tribal Food Sovereignty Coalition: Inter-tribal Collaboration to Strengthen Food Systems

The Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center at the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board has a focus on data, training and tribally driven technical assistance. Since its earliest efforts the NWTEC has focused on tribally driven projects. The NWTEC has had strong support for our Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country (GHWIC) projects, impacting policies, systems and the environment to promote health change and improvement.

WEAVE-NW is the project that has been funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under the Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country (GHWIC) initiative. Five staff members at the NWTEC are working specifically on WEAVE-NW.

Using funding provided by CDC to the NPAIHB, WEAVE-NW has given sub-awards to various tribes throughout the three state region served by the NWTEC; Idaho, Oregon and Washington States.


Many of the funded Tribes are focused on community gardens, reintroduction and support for traditional foods, and food policy initiatives.


In 2016, sub-awardee tribes attended the Native American Nutrition conference in Prior Lake, Minnesota. During a debriefing session, provided by WEAVE-NW with the sub-awardees, there was interest for more inter-tribal collaboration for addressing their community food systems. Elected leaders and community leaders, elders, and tribal employees from across the region have also expressed the need for more partnership, planning, and policy development for tribal food sovereignty.

WEAVE-NW has taken the lead in developing and facilitating a new coalition, the NW Tribal Food Sovereignty Coalition. Currently the coalition is in the planning and recruitment stages. This coalition is being formed to ensure the sustainability and viability of the food sovereignty work begun by the funded tribes. The purpose will be a mixture of networking, sharing resources, and development of sub-groups that will work on identified priority areas and goals. The coalition has met twice via video conferencing in the fall of 2017 and the first official in-person meeting will be held on March 1st, 2018 in Portland, Oregon.

There is an epidemic of preventable, diet-related diseases that is directly associated with the lack of access to healthy and traditional food resources. The coalition is an opportunity for tribes and tribal organizations to convene efforts that are driven by cultural revitalization, empowering communities, and the use of innovative strategies to improve the health of the people.


AASTEC Success Story January 2018

Success Stories, TEC News
Tribal Healthy Homes Project


To help address indoor radon concerns and to establish a baseline of general housing conditions, two northern pueblo communities partnered with the Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center (AASTEC) located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. AASTEC epidemiologists collaborated with the health and community services, Indian Health Service Environmental Health Department, health boards, environmental services departments, one housing authority, and the community health representative (CHR) programs in both pueblo communities to help develop an extensive spatial database. We geospatially mapped homes, measured their indoor radon concentrations, and recorded general housing conditions. Prior to the Tribal Healthy Homes Project, each community expressed a desire to apply for environmental health grants. However, existing data were limited on indoor radon measurement as well as current housing conditions. Therefore, this project provided an ideal opportunity for each community to customize and develop a survey of housing attributes and indoor air quality levels; with the end result of an indoor radon dataset as well as in-depth home assessments.


As part of the tribal environmental public health tracking program, we facilitated and provided the following services in collaboration with both pueblo communities. First, we participated in determining and prioritizing the health priorities for the overall project. Second, using the established environmental health priority list, we assisted in the development of a customized home assessment data dictionary tailored for conducting home assessments. Third, we provided pilot funds whereby both communities were able to: a) attend a geographical information system (GIS) training at a local tribal community college and b) purchase indoor radon kits and GPS handheld equipment, including essential software licenses. Both communities chose to use a Trimble® handheld device because it is compatible with software capable of easily recording and storing data using the customized home assessment dictionary developed by both tribal communities. The fundamental advantage of using a handheld GPS device lies in its ability to spatially record the location of each home and to record certain housing characteristics, respectively. Fourth, we assisted in developing culturally specific radon brochures for both communities. Lastly, we assisted in training exercises on how to conduct home assessments, how to measure home indoor radon concentration levels, and how to assess homes for fall injury risk factors using an injury prevention checklist.

Tribal Healthy Homes Project
Tribal Healthy Homes Project



The project yielded immediate and long-term impacts in both tribal communities.

First, members in each community had the option to expand their technical skillset by learning how to appropriately use a geographical information system database and associated hardware. Prior to the project, some members were beginners and others were more advanced in utilizing GIS software and hardware. Second, both communities spatially mapped and assessed selected homes in their communities. Sample size was based on the population of each tribal community and at the end of the pilot project funding period, each community mapped and assessed nearly half of the homes in their communities. Third, each community was able to attain updated indoor radon concentration measurements picocuries per liter (pCi/L) for both public and residential buildings. As a result, each community is now able to target follow-up testing with homes and buildings with observed higher indoor radon levels above 4.0 pCi/L, the action limit set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. Fourth, each community was able to capture and record critical housing characteristics including the demographic make-up of residents within each home. For example, the housing department was interested in the number of operating detectors in the home, e.g., smoke and carbon monoxide; the clinical services department was interested in identifying where at-risk populations live within the community, such as children who may have asthma or elderly who require accessibility and mobility assistance.

Long-term impacts of the project include just a few of the following benefits. First, providing opportunities to develop advanced training in utilizing GIS software and hardware will aid in tribal capacity surrounding GIS usage. Second, each community will have spatially mapped homes in their communities, including housing characteristics, recorded as part of the home assessment. Such a map could provide a very powerful tool in prioritizing funds for home repairs, mitigation, and outreach to assist children and elderly in cases of emergencies. Last, homes retested for indoor radon concentration levels observed to be above the action limit could be targeted for home mitigation to reduce indoor radon levels below the action limit. One community is actively querying and utilizing their database to quantify the number of homes with elevated indoor radon levels and the number of home repairs needed to assist at risk populations in their community.


This project highlights and illustrates impacts of environmental health in several ways. First, the promotion of a healthier environment is a direct impact of the pilot project. By assessing homes for indoor radon levels as well as for housing conditions, tribal housing departments in both communities have information: to target home repairs, to apply for mitigation funds, and to encourage homeowners with potentially elevated indoor radon levels to retest their homes. Second, the availability of a map of geo-located homes along with their respective housing conditions and demographic make-up, would undoubtedly prove useful for public health workers in prioritizing resources in cases of emergencies. Last, the Tribal Healthy Homes project can be used to inform homeowners in both communities on how to create healthier homes to reduce unintentional injuries related to fall risk factors, such as lack of handrails for elderly, or the long-term health effects associated with elevated indoor radon levels.