Native American Programs

MEES Making an Impact:

MEES provides Health and Human Services (HHS) with support to the American Indian and Alaska Native communities through training, technical assistance, and outreach. The MEES team brings experience in the areas of cultural communications, facilitation, focus group coordination, materials development, graphical design and support, and 508 compliant services. We currently support the Indian Health Service with their Directors Workgroup on Improving Purchased and Referred Care. We also provide training and technical assistance to the HHS Family and Youth Services Bureau’s Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention tribal grantees, including hosting and facilitating cluster calls, conducting training sessions, providing electronic technical assistance, and coordinating logistical support for conferences and events. We support a variety of HHS tribal events and committees including the National Institutes of Health Tribal Advisory Committee, the HHS Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee, the HHS Annual Tribal Budget Consultation Session, and HHS Regional Consultation Sessions.

Our Commitment to Nurturing Native Families:

NICHD hosted a one-day invitational meeting in Minneapolis in June 2002 dedicated to developing community-driven strategies responding to the Aberdeen Area Infant Mortality Study results and addressing American Indian and Alaska Native infant mortality disparity. A core group of tribal community members, tribal leaders, and staff from several regional, national and federal agencies were invited to participate. The meeting brought together individuals representing American Indian communities in the four areas of Indian Country—Aberdeen (now the Great Plains Area), Bemidji, Billings, and Portland—with the highest rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) at the time.

Our team collected community opinion on infant safe sleep through focus groups. We additionally convened an Advisory Group of American Indian and Alaska Native leaders and investigators from the Aberdeen Infant Mortality Study, other SIDS experts, and stakeholders. We conducted focus and discussion groups with American Indian and Alaska Native parents using the community-based participatory research (CBPR) model to determine which safe sleep messages resonated with young parents and which approaches they believed most effectively communicated the messages to their peers and communities.

A Work Group emerged from the Advisory Group that consisted of one consultant from each of the five targeted IHS Northern Tier Areas with supervision by the project manager. This Work Group developed adaptable, culturally appropriate, safe sleep and SIDS risk-reduction strategies, and materials for use in American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The strategies and materials reflected findings from the focus groups, scientific research on SIDS, and best practices.

Our team used the information from the focus groups and a national Work Group to develop the Healthy Native Babies Project, including a workbook, toolkit, and training sessions. NIH honored the HNB Project with the 2010 Plain Language and Clear Communication Award for our flyer, Honor the Past, Learn for the Future – SIDS. We created a workbook with topics that included facts about SIDS; model training practices and techniques for use in local training; social marketing and other strategies for reaching communities; action steps to reduce SIDS; and planning, and sustaining projects.

Our work continues today with the NIH and HHS to provide care for American Indian and Alaska Native families on a national scale. Through continued support in training and technical assistance, online resources, helpdesks, and 1-800 help hotlines, our service remains a key part of health outreach for Native communities.