The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is teaming up with Northwest Indian College in a new Northwest Indian Center for Health Education and Research at the college - on the Lummi reservation near Bellingham. "Developing an undergraduate program tailored to the health and medical needs of Native Americans can make a crucial difference in improving the health of Indian people throughout the Northwest,'' said Tommy Lewis, college president. Plans are to train health-care workers and offer an academic program in tribal public health. Space will be made available at HHS offices in Seattle to allow participation via satellite. The college will also use its satellite system to transmit health information to reservations in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. HHS will help develop the health courses and arrange hands-on public health training for students. The goals are to improve health care for Indians, draw more tribal members into the health profession and promote research into health issues of particular concern in Indian country. American Indians and Alaska Natives are 2.8 times as likely to have diagnosed diabetes as non-Hispanic whites, the department says, and the infant mortality and suicide rates are nearly 1.5 times that of whites.