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News Release

Urban Indian Health Institute

Abigail Echo-Hawk, a citizen of the Pawnee Nation and executive director of Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI), will participate in the White House COVID-19 Equity Summit and What Works Showcase on November 16.

She has been asked to be on a panel titled “It All Starts With Trust” to discuss hyper-local approaches and the importance of building and maintaining trust in public health. The panel starts at 12:15 p.m. EST and ends at 1:00 p.m. EST.

“I am honored to be a part of this summit and share an Indigenous perspective to health equity,” said Echo-Hawk. “Our community saw the impacts of structural racism throughout the pandemic, but we also showed what we can achieve when we come together.”

The summit is intended to uplift the work done by community-based organizations in alleviating the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on hard hit and high-risk populations, and to provide opportunities for those working on COVID-19 equity to exchange evidence and ideas on what has worked and could be adapted.

Urban Indian Health Institute will be the only Native organization represented on the “It All Starts With Trust” panel. Two other Native organizations will participate in different parts of the summit’s program — Wabanaki Public Health & Wellness and Yee Ha’olnii Doo

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In 2021, Urban Indian Health Institute released the first ever national data regarding Native peoples’ knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about the COVID-19 vaccine. The study surveyed American Indians and Alaska Natives across 46 states — representing 318 different tribal affiliations — to gather information ranging from individuals’ willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to the hurdles they face in accessing healthcare and resources.

As a Public Health Authority and one of 12 Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TECs) in the country, Urban Indian Health Institute advocated for access to raw COVID-19 data in June 2020 that federal and state health agencies refused to share with TECs despite their legal right to obtain the data. At the time, Tribal Epidemiology Centers were trying to access the data as the virus was disproportionately impacting Native communities. A report released by the Government Accountability Office in March 2022 found inconsistencies and made recommendations for federal health agencies to improve policies and guidance when working with TECs.

In January 2021, the Biden-Harris administration issued an executive order to address the disproportionate and severe impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and other underserved populations. The executive order stated that people of color experience systemic and structural racism in many facets of our society and are more likely to become sick and die from COVID-19.

“I’m grateful that the Biden-Harris administration acknowledged and understands the importance of advancing racial equity in public health throughout U.S. federal agencies,” said Echo-Hawk. “I just hope that all federal efforts going forward include input from Native experts and uphold treaties and the federal trust responsibility.” 

About Urban Indian Health Institute

Urban Indian Health Institute is a Public Health Authority and one of 12 Tribal Epidemiology Centers in the country. It conducts research and evaluation, collects and analyzes data, and provides disease surveillance and resources to strengthen the health of urban American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Urban Indian Health Institute’s mission is to decolonize data, for Indigenous people, by Indigenous people.

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