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NARCH (Native American Research Centers for Health)

The Indian Health Service (IHS) and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health, both agencies of the US Department of Health and Human Services, have announced the recipients of approximately $3 million in grant funding to support American Indian and Alaska Native health research efforts. Eight Tribes or tribally sanctioned organizations have been selected to receive NARCH grants for proposals submitted for FY 2001, the inaugural year of the NARCH initiative. BHCAIH was awarded $131,731 to study the attitudes of the Lakota Sioux toward being a participant in health research.

A review of the literature and our experience in working with diverse Indian and Native communities suggests that it is possible to move beyond broad recommendations for a process of community consultation to describe, in more specific ways, factors likely to operate at the level of individual members’ concerns regarding research and their decision to
participate or not in studies sanctioned by their respective tribal governments.

We believe that this undertaking represents a critical next step toward framing and pursuing culturally relevant, locally meaningful health research in Native communities. Without well-grounded empirical findings to guide us, future conversations about these matters are likely to be plagued by abstract claims that will forestall the constructive education of prospective investigators, of community participants, as well as the knowledge acquisition process in general.

This research project, recently completed, provides us with critical information about who decides to participate in health-related research among Native people—and why. We have disseminated these findings through a variety of mechanisms, including relevant coursework at the tribal colleges and universities, through Institutional Review Board training and via an instructional seminar targeted to investigators seeking tribal approval to pursue research within
these Lakota communities. We also are now positioned to develop and test specific recruitment and retention strategies in cross-cultural health research, with special reference to members of the Lakota Nation and related research activities sponsored under the auspices of this grant application. BHCAIH has also recently received funding from the third phase of the NARCH initiative, in FY2005, for a study of contextual issues in traditional Lakota healing.

For additional information on this initiative contact Dianne Hammack, IHS Public Affairs, at (301) 433-3593. Additional information about the IHS is available on the IHS website at www.ihs.gov and info.ihs.gov. Information on the NIH/NIGMS is at www.nigms.nih.gov.