MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Tribal Health Assessment
The Power of Proof
Business management gurus say, "You can't fix what you don't measure." Increasingly, health system gurus follow the same creed. Tribal health leaders from the four Maine Waponahki tribes: the Houlton Band of Maliseet, Aroostook Band of Micmac, Passamaquoddy at Indian Township and Pleasant Point and the Penobscot Nation have recently completed the first combined health assessment of their tribes in order to validate observations about the health of Maine tribal members. It is a milestone survey that demonstrates national leadership, establishes a benchmark of the current health status of the Waponahki people and identifies areas for health improvement.
"We have done what no other tribe has done. We have created the first tool to completely assess the health status of American Indians and Alaskan Native people, and we did it here," said Sandra Yarmal, Health Director of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Pleasant Point. Notably, the assessment is the only survey ever conducted in an Indian language.
The state of Maine does not have an accurate method for tracking the race or culture-specific health data that would lead to a better understanding of the health of tribal communities. "We have talked about the need for this data for more than ten years-accurate documentation that is not miscounted or misquoted," said Patricia Knox-Nicola, Tribal Principal Investigator and Project Director of the Waponahki Tribal Health Assessment. Funded through grants from MeHAF and other funders, the extensive survey provides a foundation for planning health improvements.
The data underline what the tribal health directors have observed for years. While they offer excellent health care in their facilities, the roots of many health problems must be addressed beyond the walls of the health centers. The assessment will support conversations with other members of tribal government to address the health of the community. It will also serve as the foundation for tribal research and grant proposals to support solutions to the health priorities identified.