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

Save the date!

2018 TPHEP Conference/Training will be held the week of May 14th, 2018

Clearwater Resort and Casino, Suquamish, Washington