Introduction & Background

In 2017, the Indian Health Service (IHS) launched the National Native Health Research Training Initiative (NNHRTI) to promote Tribally-driven research activity through educational and training opportunities, including the first of five annual conferences that will build capacity and disseminate new and best practices for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) health research. The 5-year initiative and each of the five annual conferences are sponsored by the IHS and hosted by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and the Native Research Network (NRN).


AI/AN research has led to important advances with respect to specific health issues (e.g., vaccines for preventable diseases, diabetes prevention) as well as approaches to conducting research in AI/AN communities (e.g., Indigenous and Community-based Participatory Research). Further, studies conducted by and for AI/ANs have demonstrated the benefits of designing and evaluating health care and research programs that are founded on cultural and traditional practices, spirituality, sovereignty, self-reliance, and collaboration. However, greater attention needs to be placed on developing research methods consistent with traditional AI/AN ways of knowing in evaluating and improving systems for health care delivery and research.

Webinar Objectives

  • Increase opportunities for AI/AN scientists and health professionals to share knowledge gained from health sciences research with AI/AN students and other scientists and health professionals.
  • Increase the dissemination and use of biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and health science research findings to address the health needs of AI/AN communities.
  • Enhance Tribal-academic collaborations and improve the ability of Tribes to better understand research findings, particularly related to the physical, biological, genetic, behavioral, psychological, cultural, and social implications of research.
  • Increase the effective use of Traditional Medicine, Indigenous Knowledge, and Traditional Ecological Knowledge/Environmental Health to enhance protective factors/effects and to improve health outcomes among AI/ANs.

Behavioral Health

Sessions within the BH Track seek to address the mental and behavioral health issues by sharing research impacting Native communities that demonstrate potential for effective and innovative interventions and innovative approaches to health care and community settings. Specific topics may include:

  • Care for individuals with serious mental illness and with substance use disorders;
  • Building quality improvement capability among mental/behavioral health providers and organizations;
  • Innovative approaches to mental/behavioral health care in low-resource settings;
  • Intervention for individuals with traumatic exposures and adverse childhood events;
  • Innovative behavioral health outreach to Tribal College and University students; and,
  • Effective interventions to address Native men’s mental and behavioral health.

Biomedical and Health Systems Research (BHSR)

Sessions within the BHSR track will highlight new advances in biomedical and health systems research in improving primary healthcare delivery, as well as innovative approaches in research that incorporate traditional AI/AN methodologies. The session will explore, among other questions: How are AI/AN researchers using traditional and cultural-based knowledge to break new ground in biomedical and health systems research? How can Western biomedical research models be informed by Traditional Knowledge? How are approaches to AI/AN research changing in response to community inclusion and consultation? What are good models for collaboration between Tribal and non-Tribal community-based health care providers that promote access to services, continuity of care, or public health? What is the future of biomedical and health systems research in AI/AN communities?

Traditional Indigenous Medicine (TIM) & Traditional Epistemology

This session will focus on the value of TIM in promoting AI/AN/NH health and Traditional Epistemology as it relates to the creation and dissemination of indigenous knowledge, beliefs, and practices. The session will explore: What are successful models of TIM-based or related treatment? What challenges do researchers face today when evaluating the effects of TIM/Epistemology in practice? How can researchers meet these challenges? How are TIM/Epistemology models changing as more become involved in research? What are the strengths and weaknesses of different models? Are certain TIM/Epistemology practices associated with certain outcomes? How will this information enhance indigenous community-academic collaborations and improve the ability of indigenous people to use research findings? Some examples of these types of research include the roles of traditional plants, indigenous language use, traditional foods and traditional meditation in health outcomes.   

Traditional Ecological Knowledge/ Environmental Health (TEK/EH)

Sessions within the TEK/EH track will explore the intersection and interactions between TEK and EH research. Talks will focus on the value of TEK to complement and expand upon Western scientific methods and will touch upon the potential for successes as well as the challenges of applying different but potentially complementary knowledge systems. Presentations will highlight the importance of raising awareness about culturally appropriate approaches among environmental health scientists working collaboratively with Tribal nations. The sessions will also include discussion of intergenerational learning, and the training and skills to increase Tribal community engagement in research using case examples of successful Tribal-academic partnerships. The session will consider questions such as: How is TEK being applied in contemporary research contexts to address pressing environmental concerns? How can TEK inform EH research, and vice versa? How can TEK be used in ecological management and policy development? What is being done to prepare AI/AN tribal college students, scientists, and health professionals to incorporate both TEK and current EH research methodologies in AI/AN health studies?