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CSTE 2020 Annual Awards: Recognizing Excellence and Outstanding Achievement in Applied Epidemiology

Posted By Sarah Zimmerman and Simental “Sy” Francisco, BS, Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Simental Francisco accepts the 2019 RWJF Award from Sarah Park, Hawaii State Epidemiologist and CSTE Board Vice President.

Each year, CSTE presents several awards recognizing excellence in applied epidemiology among our members and partners, owing to the strength and diversity in our work and membership. While some CSTE awards are decided via an annual Call for Nominations, others are eligible for self-nomination. Please see the CSTE Awards page for more details.

Note: The deadline for nominations for the 2020 Pumphandle Award, Distinguished Leader and Distinguished Partner Awards, and other awards is March 1, 2020.

Last year, CSTE presented the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Award for Outstanding Epidemiology Practice in Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities Award to Simental "Sy" Francisco from Navajo Nation Epidemiology Center. His abstract, “Initial Data Finding from Results of the Navajo Nation Health Survey: A Foundation for Development of a Navajo Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems,” addresses racial and ethnic disparities to improve public health practice through effective use of data and epidemiology in the Navajo Nation. Health disparity research on American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations spread across 560 federally recognized tribes is underrepresented in state Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance (BRFSS) reporting due to the complex issues surrounding the responsibility for public health services in AI/AN populations. Francisco leads the BRFSS at the Navajo Epidemiology Center (NEC) by demonstrating Hozhó [i] of Diné [ii] People through Naałnįįh Naalkaah [iii].  


Tribal Epidemiology Centers regional locator map.

 

The NEC is one of 12 Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TECs) that work in partnership with local or area tribes to improve the health and well-being of tribal members by offering culturally competent approaches to eliminate health disparities faced by AI/AN populations by monitoring health status, maintaining disease surveillance, conducting health research, conducting disease outbreak investigation, reporting health data, providing technical assistance, and identifying priority health concerns.   

A core function of TECs is the collection of data related to, and monitor progress made toward meeting, each of the health status objectives for Indian Tribes, Tribal Organizations, and Urban Indian Organizations (I/T/U) in their respective Indian Health Service (IHS) service areas. The Navajo BRFSS provides behavioral risk factor data on adults residing in the Navajo Nation. Initial data findings from the results of the Navajo Nation Health Survey fulfill an original premise to provide tribal-specific data from and build a foundation for a tribal nation-specific BRFSS to identify risk factors of Navajo adults; collect data specific to Navajo Nation by in-person interviews; and key data finding results to select target audiences. 

Implementing a tribal BRFSS has public health implications. The implementation of the Navajo BRFSS includes successes learned from piloting and testing; conception of a sampling design, study methodology, and procedural survey protocol as a surveillance system representative to AI/AN populations; recognizing the prevalence of health risk behaviors among Navajo adults; comparisons with other populations to identify health disparity; definition of health measures, e.g., Healthy People 2010/2020, identifying measurable baseline data; a tribal BRFSS process representative and exclusive to AI/AN population-based health; and strengthening support continual tracking, measurement, and evaluation of health status progress with the Navajo BRFSS as a primary data source to support secondary data sources.    

This work highlights the importance of culturally appropriate survey methods in developing a tribal BRFSS, which provided information for tribal leaders to support tribal epidemiology and surveillance done by Simental Francisco and his team.    


Simental Francisco's abstract for Initial Data Finding from Results of the Navajo Nation Health Survey: A Foundation for Development of a Navajo Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems can be found here. If you would like to learn more about Tribal Epidemiology Centers and the work they do, you can read more at tribalepicenters.org.  

[i] Hózhó is the wellness philosophy of the Diné (Navajo) People, comprised of principles that guide one's thoughts, actions, behaviors, and speech. 

[ii] Diné is an autonym used by the Navajo for themselves in their own language. 

[iii] Naałnįįh Naalkaah translated literally, means “disease surveillance” in Navajo. 

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