Research and Evaluation Projects

Culture, Traditions, and Consumer Engagement

This project, awarded to Sundance Research Institute by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was a partnership among Sundance Research Institute, the Wind River Indian Reservation IHS, and the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribal health departments. The objective of the project was to engage and activate the community and individual Tribal members to participate in and guide changes to IHS, and to support individual consumers in becoming active and involved participants in their healthcare through the use of technology, social media, and a patient navigator. Involvement of cultural and traditional leaders in collaborating with IHS and Tribal health systems was a unique aspect of this project. This project focused both on community and individual consumer engagement in the healthcare system, and included implementation and evaluation components. The engagement of American Indian consumers in their healthcare system and health processes offers a unique opportunity to develop a model of consumer engagement for Indian Country that integrates cultural and traditional values of the community into the health system and encourages more effective use of available health resources to improve processes of care and outcomes.

The specific objectives of this project were:

  • Actively engage the Wind River community in the assessment and guidance of quality improvement initiatives.
  • Involve traditional healers and Tribal elders to develop culturally-appropriate supports and linkages to support consumer engagement and activation.
  • Use social media processes to engage the community and individual consumers in managing their health and healthcare.
  • Establish a patient navigator program to assist consumers.
  • Evaluate the program, its impacts and lessons learned, and disseminate findings to other Tribes, IHS programs, and the research community.

The major outcome anticipated was an increase in community and individual consumer engagement with IHS and Tribal health department systems that results in positive improvement in healthcare access, quality, and patient satisfaction. Tribal work groups were actively engaged in identifying key factors for quality improvement that would increase access and patient satisfaction. IHS and Tribal health department directors worked closely with the working groups to identify priorities and feasible quality improvement strategies that were subsequently implemented. Findings can be generalized to IHS facilities throughout Indian Country, as well as to Tribally-run health systems. Institutionalizing community and individual consumer engagement processes will support sustainability, providing consumers with experience in active involvement to improve services and processes of care.

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