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National Indian Health Board Opens 10th Annual National Tribal Public Health Summit to Over 600 Tribal Health Professionals, Advocates
Messages from national leaders, public health experts to improve health outcomes for Indian Country. 

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—May 13, 2019—The National Indian Health Board (NIHB) kicked off its 10th Annual National Tribal Public Health Summit with messages from national leaders committing to work jointly with tribes and discussions from experts on adverse childhood experiences, HIV and Alzheimer’s in Indian Country. This year’s two-day Summit also features dynamic national speakers, interactive workshops and roundtable discussions, the annual Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) poster session and presentation of the 2019 Native Public Health Innovation Awards .

After acknowledging the land of the Pueblos of Sandia and Isleta, NIHB Board Chair Victoria Kitcheyan laid out the goals for the gathering. “Some very critical public health issues bring us together but it’s the solutions, resources and sharing that makes an event like NIHB’s National Tribal Public Health Summit so special. We are here to improve our approaches to issues like the opioid epidemic and suicide prevention. We are here to learn how programs are addressing climate change and diabetes. We are here to share our experiences working with state and federal partners to help improve the wellbeing of Indian Country,” said NIHB Chairperson Kitcheyan. 
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams acknowledged the critical role tribes play in addressing the most pressing public health issues – including the opioid crisis. He also affirmed the Administration’s pledge to work with tribes to improve the health outcomes in Native communities. “American Indian and Alaska Natives experienced a 58% increase in overdose deaths among males aged 25–44 years, the second highest increase in that age group,” said Adams. “Today in America, an estimated 2.1 million people struggle with an opioid use disorder. People with opioid use disorders are our friends, our neighbors, our family and perhaps even some of us here today. I am committed to strengthening connections within the health community and forging new partnerships with everyone else who can help solve our pressing problems.”

Through a video message, Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-NM-1 st ) vowed to work diligently for a healthy Indian Country. “Every community deserves access to preventive health care programs so they can raise healthy families. However, many public health issues that disproportionately impact Native Americans need more attention so we can address the increasing and disproportionate prevalence of diabetes and other chronic diseases in our communities. My support of the Special Diabetes Program for Indians reauthorization to address these issues, along with the work the National Indian Health Board is doing will help close gaps in Native health care so our families can live healthy lives,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus.

Indian Health Service Director RADM Michael Weahkee thanked NIHB, CEO Stacy Bohlen and staff for hosting an exciting event. “Your efforts to bring together a large dynamic group of health advocates will help improve the health and wellbeing of Native people throughout the country. IHS remains strongly committed to working with tribes, tribal organizations and urban Indian organizations. We believe in the unique government-to-government relationship with tribal governments and are committed to regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration. These partnerships are critical to our success in accomplishing our mission,” said RADM Weahkee. 

The open plenary session also included remarks from experts working in health data, adverse childhood experiences and Alzheimer’s in Indian Country.

Dr. Spero Manson, the director of the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health , encouraged tribal health advocates to pair stories with data. “Data is ever more critical to funding, designing and delivering programs that promote the health of Native peoples. The last 20 years were necessarily confrontational in order to educate federal agencies about their obligation to ensure the appropriate stewardship of such data. With the recent commitment of the National Institutes of Health, for example, and continued advocacy of NIHB, NCAI and other tribal organizations, we are moving beyond confrontation to collaboration that offers concrete approaches to address all parties’ concerns.”

Dr. Donald Warne, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Director of the Indians into Medicine Program at the University of North Dakota , encouraged those working in tribal public health to examine and consider the effects of historical trauma and its impact, such as the boarding school experience. “When we talk about public health in Indian Country, we have to address the historical context that contributes to adverse childhood experiences. We must look at the impact of adverse adult experiences, like poverty, having a family member in prison and inadequate housing. We need to address equity in a more comprehensive way. The medical model is not going to fix this. We are not going to be able to prescribe our way out of this. It takes a much more comprehensive approach,” Dr. Warne said.

Dr. Lisa McGuire, who leads the Alzheimer’s Disease and Health Aging Program for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shared with the audience how the CDC developed a roadmap in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, to help public health professionals address dementia within their respective communities. The CDC has worked with IHS and NIHB to emphasize the need for greater attention to tribal communities. 
Over the next two days, nearly 600 Tribal public health professionals, researchers and community-based service providers will attend sessions focusing on five public health tracks:
  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention 
  • Public Health Policy, Infrastructure and Systems
  • Substance Misuse and Behavioral Health
  • Environmental Health and Climate Change
  • Emergency Preparedness and Emerging Issues in Public Health
View the Summit agenda to learn more about the breakout sessions and roundtable discussions.

Day one of the Summit ends with a welcome reception where recipients of the 2019 Public Health Innovative Awards will be announced and celebrated, and attendees will hear from Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI) program grant recipients as they showcase their success stories at the annual SDPI Poster Session.

Learn more about NIHB at:

Social media information:
Facebook: /NIHB1972
Twitter: @NIHB1
Hashtags: #NIHB #TPHS2019 #Nativehealth #ThisisTribalPublicHealth

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.
National Indian Health Board
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