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News Release

Seattle Indian Health Board

Seattle Indian Health Board sent a letter to President Biden today requesting the Healthy Native Babies Project (HNBP) be renewed and transferred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). The program was shut down on May 5, 2022.

Healthy Native Babies Project was designed to deliver culturally appropriate risk-reduction resources about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related causes of infant death to Native families. Healthy Native Babies Project was a one-of-its-kind public health program operated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018, sudden unexplained infant death rates for American Indians and Alaska Natives were the highest among any racial or ethnic population with a rate of 212.1 per 100,000 live births, which is more than twice the rate for non-Hispanic white infants.

“Somehow, in the Administration’s attempts to address maternal and infant mortality, they forgot about Native mothers and babies,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, executive vice president of Seattle Indian Health Board and director of its research division, Urban Indian Health Institute. “The cost of running the Healthy Native Baby Project is so minimal that it’s unfathomable that this program wouldn’t be renewed. How are we supposed to address the issue if there aren’t resources available to the communities who need them the most?”

The President’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget request asks for $470 million to be allocated to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity rates; expand maternal health initiatives in rural communities; implement implicit bias training for healthcare providers; create pregnancy medical home demonstration projects, and; address the highest rates of perinatal health disparities by investing in the perinatal health workforce.

The cost to renew the Healthy Native Babies Project contract would have been $217,000, which the letter says would “have minimal fiscal impact on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Administration for Children and Families” if the program were to be reinstated.

“The Healthy Native Babies Project allowed me and others to work with and train Native parents, care takers, and providers in reducing the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and other causes of infant deaths,” said Leah Tanner, a former Healthy Native Babies Project consultant and trainer for the Portland area and citizen of the Nez Perce Tribe. “As a Native mother, and someone who has been working in this specialized area of public health for 21 years, I know there will be a major gap in accessing culturally attuned resources for Native families.”

Link to letter to President Biden

About Seattle Indian Health Board
Seattle Indian Health Board is a community health center that provides health and human services to its patients, while specializing in the care of Native people. Seattle Indian Health Board is recognized as a leader in the promotion of health improvement for urban American Indians and Alaska Natives, locally and nationally.

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