The Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board (GPTLHB) provides quality public health support and health care advocacy to the tribal nations of the Great Plains states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa by using multifaceted and culturally credible approaches. Our vision is that all tribal nations and communities in the Great Plains will reach optimum health and wellness through lasting partnerships with health organizations and embrace culturally significant values that are empowered by sovereignty. Since 2003, the Great Plains Tribal Epidemiology Center (GPTEC) has operated as a central component of GPTLHB. GPTEC offers leadership, technical assistance, support, and advocacy within epidemiology and informatics, evaluation, health promotion and disease prevention activities, and other public health services in response to the needs and priorities of its partner tribes and the estimated 265,837 American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) in the Great Plains Area (GPA).
Preventable diseases impact American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) populations at a far greater rate than they impact the rest of Americans. In the GPA, chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are among the leading causes of death for AI/ANs. Poverty is a significant social determinant of health for the AI/AN population, and tribes in the Great Plains hold some of the highest poverty rates in the nation. Tribes are less likely to engage in data collection, epidemiology, and/or surveillance activities and often do not have the resources to employ subject matter expertise in these areas. Therefore, strengthening the public health capacity of tribes is integral to reducing disparities, addressing the social determinants of health, and improving overall AI/AN health.
GPTEC currently implements a Component A-Tribal Epidemiology Center Public Health Infrastructure (TECPHI) program through funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. GPTEC plans to expand upon the activities of this program by applying for a second cycle of Component A-TECPHI funding, CDC-RFA-DP22. Our purpose is to strengthen the public health infrastructure and capacity of the Tribal Epidemiology Center and Great Plains Area tribes and Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs), so that these entities can meet national public health accreditation standards and deliver the 10 Essential Public Health Services. By increasing capacity in this way, GPTEC, GPA tribes, and UIOs within the GPA Indian Health Service area can more effectively identify and address underlying social determinants of health, reduce persistent health disparities, and improve the overall health and wellbeing of AI/AN populations. In accomplishing this, through the strengthening and expansion of our current Great Plains Tribal Epidemiology Center Public Health Infrastructure program efforts, GPTEC will 1) develop and implement TEC infrastructure improvement plans based on capacity assessment results, 2) collect and use data to carry out assessments and identify health priorities, 3) plan, implement and evaluate interventions to address health priorities, and 4) support tribes and UIOs with the development, implementation, and evaluation of plans for data collection and workforce development.
The previous cycle of TECPHI activities and accomplishments speak to GPTEC’s ability to meet the proposed objectives and goals, as well as to innovate and create lasting change within health systems, promote health and wellness, contribute to tribal and organizational capacity within data and other areas, and ultimately, to impact the health of AI/ANs throughout the GPA.