The mission of the Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center (The EpiCenter) is to collaborate with Northwest American Indian Tribes to provide health-related research, surveillance, training and technical assistance to improve the quality of life of American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/ANs).

The EpiCenter is one of thirteen national Centers charged with collecting tribal health status data, evaluating data monitoring and delivery systems, and assisting tribes in identifying local priorities for healthcare delivery and health education. Since 1997, The EpiCenter has administered a number of successful health research and surveillance projects serving the Northwest Tribes.

The EpiCenter serves the 43 federally recognized tribes in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

Until recently, monitoring and surveillance of disease and disease risk factors among AI/AN people has been a function of the Indian Health Service (IHS). In the Portland Area, which includes Washington, Oregon and Idaho, downsizing diminished the capabilities of IHS to adequately perform basic epidemiologic functions such as monitoring the health status of AI/AN communities.

In 1997, the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) received funding for the development of the Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center (The EpiCenter), with the goal to assist member tribes to improve their health status and quality of life.

The EpiCenter is conducted and administered by NPAIHB, a non-profit tribal advisory board established in 1972 to advocate and provide technical assistance for the 43 Federally recognized tribes of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

There are now ten national Centers charged with collecting data relating to and monitoring progress towards meeting the health status objectives; evaluating delivery systems and data systems; and assisting tribes to identify high priority needs for health care delivery and health education.

Tribal health research and surveillance priorities are identified by NPAIHB delegates on an annual basis. The EpiCenter’s current goals include:

Assisting communities in implementing disease surveillance systems and identifying health status priorities.
Providing health specific data and community health profiles for Tribal communities.
Conducting tribal health research and program evaluation.
Partnering with tribal, state, and federal agencies to improve the quality and accuracy of AI/AN health data.

tulalipLeavingHohRvrResearchers must be sensitive to the local culture, traditions, research priorities, and lifestyle of AI/AN communities.  Furthermore, researchers must be responsible and accountable to the tribal government where the research is being conducted.  Tribal communities are sovereign nations.  Listed below are suggestions for improving research sensitivity and responsibility to tribal governments and communities:

Researcher Sensitivity

  • Ensure understanding and good communication
  • Respect tribal culture and traditions
  • Respect tribal sovereignty and self-determination
  • Respect concerns and opinions of community
  • Respect local research priorities and needs
  • Respect individuals, families, and communities
  • Respect human participants’ rights and dignity
  • Exclude over-studied populations from participation
  • Demystify research
  • Be accessible
  • Provide feed-back and findings in a timely manner
  • Respect a tribe’s right to decline participation
  • Respect the autonomy and decisions of the tribe


Researcher Responsibility

  • Communicate and coordinate with tribal leaders
  • Negotiate tribal and community consent to participate
  • Maximize benefits and minimize risks
  • Protect human participants and sensitive data
  • Comply with informed consent process
  • Obtain service unit director, tribal, IHS research committee, and IRB approval
  • Do not begin research until all approvals are obtained
  • Share results of the research with the tribes
  • Protect participant and tribal identity
  • Build capacity within the community
  • Comply with the agreed-upon protocol specifications
  • Comply with tribal and IHS publication clearance

2018 Tribal Public Health Emergency Preparedness Conference

May 16-18, 2018

Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort

Suquamish, WA


2018 Conference Agenda Day 1   2018 Conference Agenda Day 2   2018 Conference Agenda Day 3


Session Presentations:

Tribal Community Preparedness: One Tribe’s Experiences on the Continuous Cycle of Preparedness ~ Lou Schmitz, American Indian Health Commission for Washington State; Kelly Sullivan, Kerstin Powell, and Sam White, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe

Tribal Youth Radio Training Programs for Preparedness ~ Lee Shipman, Shoalwater Bay Tribe; Dan Martinez, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

Preparing for a Public Health Emergency: The Tribal Legal Preparedness Project ~ Tina Hershey, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Disaster Behavioral Health: Post-Disaster Resources for Emotional Support and Recovery ~ Rebecca Bolante, Bolante.NET

Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication Principles ~ Celia Toles, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Community and Healthcare Preparedness Tools ~ Jean Randolph, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

A Look at Access and Functional Needs ~ Jim House, Washington State Independent Living Council

Community Resiliency: Establishing the Tribal Mitigation Framework for Planning and Projects ~ Brett Holt, Jonathan Olds, and Brenna Humphrey, FEMA Region X; Dan Tolliver, Upper Skagit Indian Tribe

Safer Communities Through Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams ~ Rebecca Bolante, Bolante.NET

Outbreak Investigations in Indian Country: What an Emergency Manager Needs to Know ~ Fauna Larkin, Coquille Tribe; Richard Leman, Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division

Assuring Effective Delivery of Medical Countermeasures to Tribes Through Collaboration ~ Lou Schmitz and Heather Erb, American Indian Health Commission for Washington State

T-Rex 2019: Medical Countermeasures Distribution Full Scale Exercise ~ Cory Portner, Ted Fischer, and Collette Byrd, Washington State Department of Health

Lessons from the Field: 2017-2018 Disaster Response Deployments: Presentation 1  Presentation 2  Presentation 3  ~ Kristen Baird Romero, Washington State Department of Health; Jennifer Cockrill, US Department of Health and Human Services ASPR Region X; Carina Elsenboss, Public Health – Seattle & King County; John Fulton, FEMA Region X; Greg McKnight, Washington State Department of Health

Preserving What Works Well: Tribal-State-NPAIHB-IHS MOUs in Oregon ~ Richard Leman, Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division; Victoria Warren-Mears, NPAIHB

The Mutual Aid Agreement for Tribes and Local Health Jurisdictions in Washington State ~ Lou Schmitz and Heather Erb, American Indian Health Commission for Washington State

Climate Change and Public Health – Seattle & King County: Building Community Departmental Capacity ~ Robin Pfohman and Colin Rhodes, Public Health – Seattle & King County

Government to Government: What Works and What Doesn’t ~ Dan Martinez, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

The Washington State Indian Healthcare Improvement Act: Adding Tribal Representation to Washington State’s Emergency Management Council ~ Heather Erb and Lou Schmitz, American Indian Health Commission for Washington State; Lee Shipman, Shoalwater Bay Tribe

Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication: Tools You Can Use ~ Jamie Bash, Oregon Health Authority

Climate and Health: Voices of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs ~ Dan Martinez, Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs