Success Stories

Success Stories

GPTEC Success Story: Preventing Racial Misclassification through Funeral Director Outreach

Success Stories, TEC News
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The issue of racial misclassification is well-documented in Indian Country and has been highlighted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as a significant data concern. Despite it being a known issue, until recently there had been little capacity or resources to prevent or correct for it in the Great Plains Area (GPA).

Unknown to many, funeral directors are responsible for classifying race on death certificates. Recognizing this as an opportunity to prevent racial misclassification before it happens, the Great Plain Tribal Epidemiology Center (GPTEC) made funeral director outreach a priority.


GPTEC first reached out to the South Dakota Funeral Directors Association in 2019 and arranged to attend their district meetings. Unfortunately, COVID-19 resulted in the meetings being canceled.


In 2021 and 2022 meetings resumed, and several members of the GPTEC team were able to attend five district meetings in South Dakota to spread awareness about the issue of racial misclassification on death certificates and learn more about the challenges funeral directors face in collecting and reporting data on race/ethnicity. One of the meeting highlights was a funeral director who expressed they “did not even know anyone looked at that information.” GPTEC was able to denote the important role race data plays in epidemiology and public health. Additionally, a critical barrier in the vital records electronic system was identified, which GPTEC was able to communicate back to the Vital Records office in South Dakota.

Additionally, GPTEC’s epidemiologist II, Sarah Shewbrooks, presented via webinar for the Iowa Funeral Directors Association to educate on data quality and highlight the vital role of funeral directors in preventing racial misclassification. Shortly after, an individual from the Massachusetts Department of Health contacted GPTEC indicating they had heard about the materials Sarah presented and asked to use and distribute them in their jurisdiction, demonstrating how wide of a reach her presentation had! Iowa also indicated they would like GPTEC to attend their state meeting and potentially host a round table session on the topic in 2023.

FD Magnet


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To further spread awareness of the importance of racial classification to funeral directors who do not interact with their state Funeral Directors Association, GPTEC also mailed out flyers and magnets on the topic. The total number mailed was close to 1,300.


NWTEC Success Story: What is NativeDATA?

Success Stories, TEC News
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NativeDATA is a free online resource that offers practical guidance for Tribes and Native-serving organizations on obtaining and sharing health data. We also offer data sharing success stories, as well as tips for those seeking to respectfully collaborate with Tribes and Native-serving organizations.


NativeDATA is an initiative of IDEA-NW – a project working to improve data and enhance access for Tribes in the Pacific Northwest and across Indian Country.


Defining Your Goal
Is obtaining data the best choice?

Sharing Data
Is sharing your data a good idea?

Building Relationships
Keep partnerships strong

Obtaining Data
Know your rights

Getting Approvals
Buy-in is key

Check out this Powerful Resource




ANEC Success Story: Augmented Reality – Substance Use Neurophysiology and Data Visualization

Success Stories, TEC News
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The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) is the largest, most comprehensive tribal health organization in the United States. The organization puts creativity and innovation at the forefront of its programming to serve over 160,000 Alaska Native and American Indian people across a vast geographic area.

In 2017, Alaska’s governor declared the opioid crisis a statewide disaster. This prompted coordinated and collaborative action among many state, tribal, and federal agencies. Alaska’s Statewide Opioid Action Plan was finalized in 2018 and outlined priorities for addressing stigma, educating communities, and reducing the risk of substance misuse.

Behavioral health program staff and epidemiologists at ANTHC joined forces to put the strategic plan into action. Staff conducted community health assessments and identified stigma towards individuals with a substance use disorder and a lack of engaging education about opioids’ effects on the brain as the top priorities in communities. Attention turned to technologies that could provide a realistic, interactive learning experience that would be different from any other education currently being offered by the state. ANTHC’s Telehealth Technology Assessment Center, a leader in telehealth technology, made pilot testing with their augmented reality glasses readily accessible.

ANTHC staff facilitated a collaborative storyboarding process, which involved content review by physicians. They ultimately developed what might be the most creative of their educational approaches to-date: an augmented reality learning experience that incorporates culturally appropriate images and references with straightforward explanations of neurophysiology. When patients put on a pair of mixed reality glasses, they are transported to a campfire, complete with the sound of crackling firewood. Information is presented like a story. Users can select different chapters ranging from the epidemiology of opioid use in Alaska, to different brain functions, to the effects of opioids on the brain. 3D images provide immersive, sensory experiences throughout each chapter of this new curriculum. For example, the image of a towering bear shows patients how the brain makes decisions under stress. ANTHC staff also worked with local language experts during the summer of 2021 to translate materials into the Yup’ik language, which will make the education even more accessible to patients.

This technology has checked off all boxes for ANTHC staff. It filled the program gaps identified at the initial assessment phase of this project and has also been a surprisingly cost effective and practical option. The lenses are cheaper and much more transportable compared to ANTHC’s other educational offerings like giant anatomical inflatables, which are expensive and pose significant logistical challenges. The project has garnered positive feedback in its current pilot stage and proven immense potential for future use. Providers who were involved in testing stated that they “would use this with patients in a heartbeat” and that the presentation of material was “the best explanation [they’ve] ever seen.”

Enthusiasm for this form of education has also led to conversations about expanding content beyond opioid use to topics such as other types of substance use and adverse childhood experiences. ANTHC staff hope to expand to different platforms as the technology improves, such as smartphones or webpages, to make the educational experience accessible to the entire tribal health patient population and ultimately improve substance use literacy across the Alaska health system. Simply put by Program Manager Jackie Engebretson, “It’s great to have the opportunity for Indian Country to have something so cutting edge.”

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AASTEC Success Story: Spotlight Series – Tribal Leaders and Organizations in Lung Health

Success Stories, TEC News
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The American Lung Association proudly partners with Tribal leaders and organizations to raise awareness about lung health and devise community-informed, effective ways to address disparities. Here are some highlights of these impactful partnerships:


Janna Vallo is from the Pueblo of Acoma. She is the Commercial Tobacco Control & Prevention Coordinator under the CDC Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country Program at the Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center (AASTEC).


Janna currently chairs the New Mexico Credentialing Board for Behavioral Health Professionals, the New Mexico Allied Council on Tobacco, and the Southwest Tribal Tobacco Coalition. Janna provides interactive facilitation, networking, technical support, and training opportunities for Tribal communities seeking to build their knowledge around Commercial Tobacco Prevention, while respecting traditional and sacred uses of tobacco.

Although the pandemic gave us a challenging year, AASTEC was able to reach out to all their local tribal partners, as well as national tribal partners, to provide monthly virtual presentations around commercial tobacco. They provided technical assistance as requested to tribes around commercial tobacco and COVID-19. They also created packets for tribal casinos to positively encourage them to maintain their smoke-free status, with the hopes of them making it a long-term policy. AASTEC worked to embrace the change to a virtual platform that allowed us to network and collaborate nationally to grow the efforts around commercial tobacco cessation and prevention. They consider this work continuous and fun!

Janna Vallo,
Commercial Tobacco Control and Prevention Coordinator
Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center,
Albuquerque, New Mexico




ANEC Success Story: Wellness Strategies for Health

Success Stories, TEC News
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The Wellness Strategies for Health (WSH) Program focuses on chronic disease prevention through policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) change. The WSH team has three CDC-funded projects: Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country (GHWIC), Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH), and a contract with the State Physical Activity and Nutrition (SPAN) Program.

GHWIC and REACH focus on increasing access to healthy foods and beverages, increasing opportunities for physical activity, and reducing tobacco use. Both also work to increase referrals and access to chronic disease prevention programs and services.

GHWIC and REACH support regional projects at six THOs selected through a competitive application process. Partners are the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, Copper River Native Association, Maniilaq Association, Norton Sound Health Corporation, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Corporation, and Tanana Chiefs Conference.

The WSH Program also partners with the SOA on the Campus Healthy Food (CHeF) Project through its SPAN grant. CHeF focuses on increasing the number of healthy food and beverage options available at ANTHC facilities and making it easier for people to choose those options. As a way to show support for essential hospital staff and to encourage healthy food choices at a time when campus food service is limited due to COVID-19, the CHeF Project distributed lunchboxes filled with pre-packaged healthy snacks and thank you messages to ANMC housekeeping and laboratory staff.


To learn more about the WSH Program and partner activities, please visit our website.