The environment is increasingly recognized as having a significant influence on human health. Environmental and social determinants of health and environmental health regulations are often disproportionately burdensome to Tribes, creating disparities in health status and outcomes such as injuries, asthma, and other environmentally-related illnesses. The Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) Environmental Public Health (EPH) Program provides direct services and support to all 43 federally-recognized Tribes in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The EPH Program directive is to identify and reduce environmental risks and hazards where people live, learn, work, and play and enhance the health and quality of life for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN). The program achieves this by implementing culturally-sensitive, evidence-based EH interventions and measures. The NPAIHB EPH Program is applying for funding to collect and utilize EH data to improve EH capacity as follows:
Component A.: Establish systematic procedures to conduct community environmental health assessments and develop improvement plans which will create an accurate and verifiable profile of Tribal communities’ environmental health status. The process will be designed to improve decision making by taking a collaborative community-based approach to generating an action plan. The plan will be based on a set of priorities that reflect an accurate assessment of the local environmental health status and an understanding of public values and priorities.
Component B.: Build and strengthen the capacity of the NPAIHB and Tribes to identify, evaluate, and improve domestic well water safety programs. The NPAIHB proposes to fund and train at least three Tribes to identify all private drinking water wells, conduct screening sampling for contaminants, and perform risk assessments for improving wellhead protection.
Component C.: Protect the increasing homeless populations in Reservation communities from EH hazards associated with hazardous weather events and natural disasters. The NPAIHB proposes to fund and partner with two Tribes or Tribal organizations to understand and characterize the homelessness problems and potential EH hazards.
The purpose of the proposed project strategies and activities is to strengthen the NPAIHB’s internal capacity to deliver EH services to build and develop the EH capacity of Tribes and Tribal organizations in the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, Tribes do not receive funding or federal block grants like states do to fund their EH programs. Tribal options for funding EH programs are limited to small grants and inadequate contracts with IHS.
Funding this application will enhance and catalyze the NPAIHB’s capabilities to collect and use data in partnership with Tribes, provide the platforms for Tribes to build EH capacity with the data to identify priority EH issues, develop appropriate interventions, and evaluate interventions and programs for effectiveness. These improvements will develop Tribal public health department EH program capacity, improve EH program performance and resilience in Northwest Tribal communities, and lead to sustainable and equitable environmental public health programs and services for AI/AN people.