Background

For many Native American communities, the issue of how health is defined and assessed in policies and regulations is a high priority because of the considerable environmental public health risks we face from the contamination of our territories and natural resources.

The overarching aims of the project are to create and test a set of community-based indicators of indigenous health specific to Native American tribal communities in the Puget Sound/ Salish Sea region of the Pacific Northwest. Indigenous Health Indicators (IHIs) are necessary because current U.S. government public health regulations and policies are based on a position that views risks and impacts as objective measures of dose-response assessments and physiological morbidity or mortality outcomes but does not otherwise connect them to social or cultural beliefs and values integral to Native American definitions of health. By constructing a more complex, narrative set of indicators beyond the physiological for tribal communities, a more accurate picture of health status is gained with which to better evaluate and manage tribal public health risks and impacts.

While our approach focuses on our Coast Salish ways, we believe that the concepts, objectives, and IHI tool itself are germane for indigenous communities globally. We seek to continue testing the IHIs with diverse indigenous communities across North America and beyond. There are numerous potentially applicable contexts, such as evaluating effects of: contamination events, siting locations of new industries, a proposed new nano-scale product, or climate change impacts. Please contact us if you are interested in participating.