Thank you to all attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, federal partners, and community members that made this National Tribal Health Conference and 50th Anniversary celebration a great success.

2022 National Tribal Health Conference

September 26-29, 2022

Thank you to all of the attendees, presenters, speakers, exhibitors, vendors, and sponsors that attended and supported the 2022 National Tribal Health Conference and 50th Anniversary Celebration on September 26-29, 2022. NIHB has posted many of the presentations from the conference below in order to ensure that the great information that was shared is widely disseminated throughout Indian Country.

The National Indian Health Board welcomed over 800 Tribal leaders, Tribal health administrators, and policy advocates to its 2022 National Tribal Health Conference (NTHC) on September 26-29, 2022. The National Tribal Health Conference explores health policy, Tribal health equity, and its impact on American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) Tribal nations. The annual conference advances Tribal capacity to influence federal law and policies and serves as a forum to discuss Tribal health care, public, behavioral, and environmental health, and legislative and policy priorities. Read the press release

This year, the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) hosted the Outstanding Service Awards at the Heroes in Health Awards Gala at the National Museum of the American Indian. Annually NIHB honors and recognizes outstanding individuals, programs, and organizations from across Indian Country whose service and selfless work have significantly contributed to improving American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) health. NIHB recognized over 40 honorees from across Indian Country in Area and Regional Impact, National Impact, Youth Leadership, and the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Jake Whitecrow Award. Read the press release.

During the Opening Plenary Session, Jon Blum, Principal Deputy Administrator from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) committed to raising the standard for health care in Indian Country by working to expand coverage, provide resources, increase behavioral health services, and improve maternal health care. He also spoke about the importance of it partnering with Indian Country and other agencies. To do so Blum asked all to:

  1. Hold CMS accountable and responsive to build forward engagement.
  2. Help CMS define what healthcare equity means by providing feedback and input.
  3. Educate and prepare Indian Country for the end of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) and the need to be redetermined for Medicaid/Medicaid expansion eligibility.
The White House Council on Native American Affairs (WHCNAA) heard Indian Country’s call for health equity and worked with Congress to establish the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program among other action items. Anthony Morgan Rodman, Executive Director WHCNAA acknowledged the concerns about American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and the Tribes that are cautious about spending funds they cannot pay back like sanctions. 

The council is co-chaired by U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland, who provided a video message for conference attendees. 

Bryan Newland, DOI Assistant Secretary focused on health equity and how the power of AI/AN identity, “Indian Country became a leader in the United States for how to come together and respond to a public health crisis,” that is how American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) people are, united. He touched on climate change jeopardizing treaty rights and how our lands and waters are directly related to our health. “Because of where we live, we often feel the impacts of climate change first.” Newland also reminded attendees there is not a single person in Indian Country who has not been affected by Indian Boarding Schools. The power is in our identity.

An update from Dr. Rose Weahkee, Acting Director, Intergovernmental Affairs, Indian Health Service (IHS), reported the President's fiscal year (FY) 2023 Budget proposed the first fully funded IHS and how the agency would like to see a mandatory budget process moving forward. Roselyn Tso, confirmed Director of IHS partook in the IHS Listening Session and was formally sworn in the following day by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra.

With IHS funding of concern, Rachel Joseph, Former Chairwoman, Lone Pine Shoshone Paiute Tribe called on Tribal leaders, organizations, and Urban Indian Organizations to take steps to define and advance health equity in Indian Country. The National Tribal Budget Formulation Workgroup (NTBFWG) stressed that equity in funding has always been a core issue in terms of Indian health care. Full funding and mandatory funding are necessary for Tribal health equity but are not the only component; understanding social determinants of health is also needed. Secretary Denis McDonough was on hand to provide the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Update. The VA is implementing a model of health care which will support traditional methods of healing and culturally competent care and have reimbursement sites, purchased referred care agreements, and expand partnerships. Additionally, McDonough offered, “I know it’s been a long wait on implementation of legislation to exempt AI/ANs from copays at the VA. I make this commitment to you, the VA is implementing this law this calendar year and AI/AN veterans will be exempt from copays before we see 2023.”

Health equity extends to opioids litigation, settlement issues, and Tribal participation. Geoffrey Strommer, Partner, Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker, LLP reported there are currently 3000 cases nationally that involved litigation against opioid manufacturers. There is $600 million headed to Indian Country to help deal with this issue through settlements. All Tribes are eligible to receive settlement payments, but settlements are dependent on Tribal participation thresholds. Strommer called upon Indian Country to join the settlement now to receive funds sooner. Comments on the structure of the formula that determines how much a Tribe would receive are due by November 10, 2022. Submit comments and inquiries to Geoff Strommer at [email protected].

While western medicine has its benefits, Tribal communities have always practiced traditional methods of care. Donald Warne MD, MPH, Provost Fellow and Co-Director, Center for Indigenous Health, Johns Hopkins University asked conference attendees for help advancing maternal health equity through policy and system solutions, which are linked to funding and sustainability. AI/ANs did not have hospitals and relied on Indigenous doulas and ceremonies. The next step for training programs with traditional ways is to remove administration burdens.

The Community Health Aid Program (CHAP) is more than just a health initiative. It does not just bring more providers into the community but allows those providers to offer care incorporating language and Tribal practices. The CHAP model is an AI/AN traditional model of care but carries concerns of sustainability challenges beyond FY 2023. There needs to be continued consultation that is meaningful to facilitate a strong partnership. 

Further discussions surrounding the vision for the next 50 years closed out the conference. Kitcki Carroll, Executive Director, United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. (USET) reminded attendees why we have conferences like this. “There has never been a moment the United States has honored its trust responsibilities. Indian Country is not a special interest, these obligations are due to us,” said Carroll. Topics laid out a vision for the next 50 years that include key concepts that need to be kept at the forefront; Principles of Self-Governance, Quiet Crisis Report – 2003 and Broken Promises in 2018, health care funding, and policy reform. Bohlen proclaimed, “Our lawmakers need to understand that Indian health isn’t Indian health, it’s American health. It’s as American as it gets. Congress needs to help us make our future by funding us appropriately.”

Read the press release.

NIHB extends special and heartfelt thanks to everyone – including attendees, plenary speakers, presenters, sponsors, exhibitors, Tribal health and public health professionals, and Tribal leaders – who made the 2022 National Tribal Health Conference a resounding success.

National Indian Health Board
50 F St NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC 20001 | Phone: 202-507-4070 | Email: [email protected]