The Southern Plains Tribal Health Board (SPTHB) American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) Health Disparities Program is a 5-year block grant awarded by the Office of Minority Health (OMH) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is intended to strengthen the capacity of Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TECs) to collect and manage data more effectively and to better understand and develop the link between public health problems and behavior, socioeconomic conditions, and geography.

There are three (3) long-term goals and four (4) objectives of this program.  The long-term goals include: 1) To improve coordination and utilization of patient, research and evaluation data to identify highest priority health status objectives and services needed; 2)To improve cultural competency for professionals working with the AI/AN population; and 3)To increase awareness of health disparities.  The objectives are as follows: I)Increase the quality and availability of research, evaluation, and surveillance data including those in electronic formats; II) To create career pathways in public health practices and prevention oriented research for tribal members; III) To provide training to leadership at all levels in the areas of cultural competency and issues specific to AI/AN health disparities; and IV)To disseminate information/results obtained.

Ongoing and long-term projects under the SPTHB AI/AN Health Disparities Program will result in increased cultural awareness of health professionals by helping those employed in health fields to better understand their American Indian patients’ culture, views, needs and communication styles. This better understanding will increase capacity to treat American Indian patients and reduce health disparities. SPTHB HD Program activities will also produce increased data collection and dissemination activities through development of enhanced data networks specific to American Indian communities in the SPTHB service area. Improved data collection and dissemination efforts will help increase awareness and decrease health disparities for American Indians by identifying and targeting at-risk populations and regions for specific health disparities.

  1. The SPTHB is creating awareness and seeking to reduce health disparities through the creation of an American Indian Data Community of Practice (AID CoP). The SPTHB is a support group member and core group member of the newly formed AID CoP. In 2016, this community celebrated its 1-year anniversary. The community continues to grow with over 90 members from Tribal health programs, Oklahoma state health agencies, and other local health organizations and non-profits.
  2. An in-person cultural orientation training was held with the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, in2016, for approximately 100 employees who have extensive contact with members of the AI/AN community, with additional discussion around utilizing the online curriculum for added training throughout the agency.By being more culturally sensitive, healthcare professionals can provide more quality care to patients.
  3. The 8th Annual Tribal Public Health Conference was held in Shawnee, OK in April 2016.The conference had approximately 330 in attendance. The conference included topics on cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, men’s health, traditional foods, electronic cigarettes, STD/HIV prevention, emergency preparedness, American Indian Veterans’ health, grant processes, data gathering and usage, public health law, public health accreditation, and health information technology. Planning for the 9th Annual Tribal Public Health Conference has been underway for the remaining of 2016 and will be held April 11th-13th, 2017.

It is the mission of the SPTHB to serve the 43 tribes in the SP region, and I believe many aspects of the HD grant do just that and much more. In addition, through the many partnerships, communities, and coalitions the HD staff members are involved in, over 100 partnering organizing are also impacted through the efforts of this grant. However, some specific events and instances really standout. During the 8th Annual Tribal Public Health Conference, held in April 2016, a focus group was orchestrated during one of the breakout sessions. Roughly 10-20 tribal community members attending the conference participated in the focus group. Though the subject of the focus group was rather specific, you could see and hear the impact the entire conference was having on the participants. They spoke of their families, the elders and their children and the information they would take home to them. They reflected on new information gained from the conference and how it would be implemented in their homes. The experience was profound. Another that standouts occurred during our monthly AID CoP meeting. With 44 partnering organizations in one room, we gathered at small tables in groups assorted by project topics of interest that aimed to improve AI health and wellbeing. At these tables we began the planning stages for these projects with one primary purpose: serve our tribal nations.

  • Fact sheets and patient education materials were translated into visually appealing infographics and dissemination has begun.
  • Cultural competency training is available to health care professionals.

The Health Disparities (HD) grant was first awarded to the SPTHB in 2007 and continuation was accepted in 2012.

Southern Plains Tribal Health Board
Phone: (405) 652-9200
Fax: (405) 840-7052