Partnerships with Tribal Communities for Environmental Public Health

The SWEHSC supports Tribal efforts to create and maintain healthy communities. The goal of community engagement is to serve American Indian communities as they address their environmental issues, especially those tied into the research themes of SWEHSC. New partnerships are welcome.


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Some Principles of Developing Tribal Partnerships for Environmental Health Research

Presented at the Annual Environmental Health Sciences Core Centers Meeting held Oct. 19-21, 2008, at the University of Pennsylvania. Based on Promises to keep: Public health policy for American Indians and Alaska Natives in the 21st century by Yvette Roubideaux and Mim Dixon.

Lindsey suggested the following principles in her presentation.

  • It is important to consider learning about and incorporating Native viewpoints into the study design.
  • Researchers should consider hiring Native people to assist in the studies and training them, instead of traditional graduate students, to become investigators.
  • Another important concept to consider is funding a Native Research Committee appointed by the local community to oversee the study. This group can help investigators through the cultural differences and help them make good connections with the leadership in the community.
  • When the study is finished, researchers should report their findings to this committee and the community in a non-technical summary.

The SWEHSC has a strong commitment to assisting Tribal communities in their interest in science and concern for the health of their people and their environments. The Native perspective about science and the environment is incorporated into such projects. The commitment extends to promoting the importance of including community members and leaders in the design of the research, obtaining the data and in disseminating the results. The SWEHSC is also committed to providing community education, opportunities for Native children to be trained and to have an opportunity to be able to serve their own community.

Lindsey’s professional and personal experiences with Native Americans give her a special insight. She is married to a Cherokee and lived on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona for six years. She earned a master’s degree in education, completing her thesis, A Constructivist Study of Developing Curriculum to Teach Internet Information Literacy to Navajo High School Students, and studied retention of American Indian graduate students while competing her master's degree in Information Resources and Library Science.