On September 25 and 26, the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) hosted the Tribal Health Equity Data Symposium in Washington, DC. Over the two-day event, speakers, panels, and facilitated sessions covered a range of topics, including measuring health equity with an Indigenous lens, culturally relevant data collection methods, promising practices in improving the collection of race and ethnicity data, and challenges and opportunities in Tribal access to data held by federal and state agencies. These discussions concluded that future directions for health equity work should honor the importance of good stewardship of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) data, Tribal access to datasets held by federal and state agencies, and furthering Indigenous perspectives in health equity and health research.
NIHB Chairperson and Alaska Area Representative, Chief William Smith (Valdez Native Tribe), delivered the opening remarks, noting, “Data is a critical component of the path to health equity.” Keynote speakers Abigail Echo-Hawk (Pawnee) and Dr. Myra Parker (Mandan-Hidatsa-Cree) began the discussion on what a culturally driven approach to measuring health equity can look like with their presentations on “Decolonizing Data: Restoring Culture, Building Beauty,” and “Indigenizing Data: Mapping a Path Toward Health Equity,” respectively. Dr. Donald Warne (Oglala Lakota) continued the conversation on day two with his keynote titled, “Measuring Health Equity with a Tribal Lens: Leaning on Strengths, Sovereignty, and Indigenous Identity.”
Professionals from across the spectrum of health data joined the symposium as guest speakers. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Senior Health Scientist, Delight Satter (Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde), and Indian Health Service (IHS) Officer and Director of the Office of Information Technology, Mitchell Thornbrugh (Muscogee Creek Nation), and Meagan Khau, Director, Data Analytics & Research Group within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Office of Minority Health represented federal partners in Tribal data work. Sujata Joshi of the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, and Rachael DeMarce (Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and Blackfeet Nation) and Ben Han of Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium represented regional Tribal organizations and their ideas for future work with health equity and data. Other guest speakers included Native researchers and NIHB subject matter experts.
Concluding sentiments from the symposium conveyed the importance of using data in advocacy efforts. The final presentation of the event, “Putting it into Practice: Story as Data and Data as Story,” ended with a call to widely share stories of Tribal data and its impact on health equity work.
The Tribal Health Equity Data Symposium contributes to NIHB’s ongoing advocacy for improved data practices to protect Tribal sovereignty and advance health equity, in laws, policies, and private industry standards. NIHB advances Tribal data priorities by providing technical assistance and policy analysis for Tribal leaders as they participate in Tribal consultations and Tribal Advisory Committee meetings with government agencies like the Office of Management and Budget, CDC, National Institutes of Health, IHS, and others. In addition, NIHB is leading several data projects to make improvements in specific areas, like Maternal Mortality Review Committees and Electronic Case Reporting.
Videos, slides, poster presentations, and other resources from the symposium will be posted on NIHB’s website here. The full report on the event is expected to be published in January 2024. If you would like to learn more about NIHB’s work, you can read NIHB’s Health Equity in Indian Country Report here.