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NIHB Closes Tribal Public Health Summit with Public Health Innovation Awards Presentation
WASHINGTON, DC—April 29, 2021—Today, the National Indian Health Board (NIHB), the only Tribal organization that represents solely the healthcare needs and interests of all 574 federally recognized Tribes, presented its annual Public Health Innovation Awards in three categories - national, regional and local - for outstanding work on COVID-19 response and vaccine distribution. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez received the national award, the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla’s Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center received the regional award and the local award went to Vangie Natan with the White Mountain Apache Rainbow Treatment Center.

“The National Indian Health Board acknowledges that public health is a traditional Native value and that Tribes have led the way in creating and implementing public health programming and services that align community health needs with cultural beliefs. There is no doubt that over the last year Tribes, Tribal organizations and programs have stepped up and gone above and beyond to protect their people and communities against COVID-19. Congratulations to the well deserving recipients of NIHB’s Public Health Innovation Awards,” said Beverly Coho, NIHB Albuquerque Area representative and Vice Chairperson of the Albuquerque Area Indian Health Board
The National Public Health Innovation Award recipient was Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. President Nez was recognized for his leadership in the Nation’s COVID-19 response, relief and recovery efforts. President Nez demonstrated exceptional dedication and leadership, and worked alongside the unified command team to provide medical services, and implement humanitarian, surveillance, public education and community mitigation strategies. Most recently, the Navajo Nation, under President’s Nez leadership, has found incredible success deploying the COVID vaccine to elders and vulnerable populations.

“On behalf of our Navajo people, frontline warriors including our health care workers, I’m honored to accept the National Native Public Health Innovation Award from NIHB. Without the resilience and outstanding adherence to public health orders and advice from our public health experts by the Navajo people, we might not be where we are today with record low numbers of COVID-19 cases and related deaths. The Navajo Department of Health, Navajo Area IHS and many others have worked non-stop to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and to save lives,” said President Nez. “Through our combined efforts and collaboration, the Navajo Nation took proactive measures even before the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed within our homelands and it helped to keep our people safer. I also thank the Navajo Health Command Operations Center and the Unified Command Group for working tirelessly to provide direct relief to the Navajo people and for the nomination for the NIHB award. We are overcoming the pandemic day by day thanks to the commitment and sacrifices of our frontline warriors. Thank you to NIHB for this special recognition.”
The Regional Public Health Innovation Award was presented to the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla for their dedication and work to assure that their citizens have access to the COVID vaccine. The Yellowhawk Clinic administered 2,828 COVID-19 tests and 4,417 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Yellowhawk has vaccinated elders, students, educators, restaurant workers and other vulnerable members of their community.
The Local Public Health Innovation Award recipient was Evangeline “Vangie” Natan who is the Administrative Director of the White Mountain Apache Rainbow Treatment Center (RTC). RTC offers alcohol and substance abuse programming, but unfortunately was forced to close during the pandemic. Ms. Natan was nominated for successfully opening a COVID-19 quarantine site using RTC resources and reorganizing the inpatient residential center to accommodate families during the pandemic.

“The NIHB Public Health Innovation Awards represents excellence, achievement and innovations that are above and beyond the call of service and each of this year’s recipients are shining examples of that leadership in their communities,” said Coho. 

About the National Indian Health Board
Founded in 1972, NIHB is a 501(c) 3 not for profit, charitable organization providing health care advocacy services, facilitating Tribal budget consultation and providing timely information, and other services to all Tribal governments. NIHB also conducts research, provides policy analysis, program assessment and development, national and regional meeting planning, training, technical assistance, program and project management. NIHB presents the Tribal perspective while monitoring, reporting on and responding to federal legislation and regulations. It also serves as conduit to open opportunities for the advancement of American Indian and Alaska Native health care with other national and international organizations, foundations corporations and others in its quest to build support for, and advance, Indian health care issues.
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Reach the NIHB COVID-19 Response Team, contact
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