Claremore Daily Progress

Columnists

October 19, 2010

Health research advisory council

CLAREMORE — Two weeks ago, I traveled for three days as a representative of the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma area tribes to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

As Co-Chair of the Health and Human Services (HHS) American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) Health Research Advisory Council (HRAC), HRAC is tasked with obtaining input from tribal leaders on health research priorities and needs for their communities, providing a forum for HHS operating and staff divisions to better communicate and coordinate AI/AN health research activities and providing a conduit for disseminating information to tribes about research findings from studies focusing on the health of AI/AN populations.

I have the honor of serving with my Co-Chair, Kathy Hughes, who is Vice Chairwoman of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.  She and the other elected Tribal leaders from across the U.S. who serve on the Federal HHS Council are outstanding individuals who share many of our community issues.

The Office of Minority Health (OMH) for HHS was elevated to directly report to the HHS Secretary Sebelius with the approval of the Health Care Reform Act.  Thus, tribal health issues were elevated.

During the annual meeting, we learned about the University of New Mexico’s AI/AN Health Database which will now be proposed for additional funding and database improvements to elevate AI/AN health research issues.

Indian Health Service (IHS) presented on the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) which supposedly measures outcomes and justifies budgets for all Tribal and IHS health facilities such as Claremore Indian Hospital. 

I am still unclear if the GPRA measures are truly effective or just more bureaucracy which costs money which could have been used for direct services.  I hope to learn more at future meetings to resolve my issues with GPRA.

Tribal EpiCenters such as the Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center, Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center, Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Epidemiology Center and Urban Indian Health Institute Seattle funded by IHS with National Institutes of Health (NIH) monies.

The OMH National Plan for Action (NPA) and AI/AN Blue Print which is a part of the NPA was presented. 

I believe the NPA will be used to drive future health policy and funding.  To learn more about the NPA, go to http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/npa/.

HRAC Federal Partners include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, IHS, HHS Intergovernmental Affairs, NIH and OMH.  Future partners may be added such as the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) who funds the local Rogers County Healthy Community Partnership via a Cherokee Nation SAMSHA grant award.

Beyond the annual physical meeting, HRAC requires me to travel throughout the year and educate others on HRAC as well as conference calls with our members.

Upcoming HRAC obligations include separate travel dates over the next two months for meetings in DC with the Director of NIH, HRAC Federal partners and likely HHS Secretary Sebelius.

For HRAC travel, the HRAC budget pays for travel costs and the Tribe does not incur travel costs for HRAC obligations.

HRAC is separate from my service on the HHS OMH Advisory Council on Minority Health, Claremore Indian Hospital Advisory Board which I Chair and the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Health Committee.

If you have questions, issues or concerns about the Cherokee Nation government, please email me at cara@caracowan.com or write me at P.O. Box 2922, Claremore, OK 74018.

For daily news and event notices, ask to be added to my District 7 email listserv.

You can, also, find me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

To contact the Tribe, call 453-5000. The operator will connect you with the appropriate department. Tribal programs and services are administered by the Chief’s staff at the Tribal Complex.

Tribal hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Save a trip to Tahlequah by using the tribe’s Internet tools at www.cherokee.org.

Almost all applications are available online to print from home.

Cara Cowan Watts is the deputy speaker of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council and elected representative for District 7. 

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