Grant Project Title
Advancing Health Equity through Data Integrity
Grantee Address

Southern Plains Tribal Health Board
9705 North Broadway Extension
Oklahoma City, OK
United States

Southern Plains Tribal Health Board (SPTHB) is based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and is one of twelve Tribal Epidemiological Centers across the country. SPTHB provides a unified voice on tribal public health needs and policy for 43 federally recognized tribes located in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. SPTHB also serves as a liaison between tribes and the National Indian Health Board, which works closely with Congress and Senate on Indian Health Policy for Indian Country.

This proposal grows out of a research project that the SPTHB led, in conjunction with the University of Oklahoma, that linked mortality data to Indian Health Services (IHS) data and found that American Indians and Alaska Natives were racially misclassified upon death between 20% and 40% of the time. When this misclassification happens, it not only skews AI/AN data, but it also disproportions other racial data sets as well. When misclassified data is subsequently used to make decisions on programs, policy, and funding, it is doing so with an inaccurate grounding in a way that further exacerbates health and oral health disparities.

This proposal represents the first phase, of a three-phase project, that seeks to partner with Tribal communities to understand the scope and impact of problems associated with data misclassification and to develop recommendations for preventing and mitigating these circumstances moving forward. This first phase will consist of three core activities:

- A literature review to understand the scope of available data and research regarding racial misclassification among the AI/AN population.

- An investigation of recent linkages of the AI/AN population in mortality data.

- A series of analyses that will lead to a set of recommendations for best practices for advancing data equity.

This work will culminate in a report that will be used to guide future phases of the project as well as other opportunities for advancing oral health equity in, and beyond, Oklahoma. In the short term, this project will inform targeted strategies of the Native Oral Health Network (NOHN), which is the first oral health network in Oklahoma focusing on Native communities. As well, the findings in the report will be leveraged to work with Oklahoma Medicaid agency to improve AI/AN oral health data collection processes to produce a more robust, granular level of oral health data.

In the longer term, this project will result in a thorough understanding of race/ethnicity data collection and reporting processes that will guide local, state, and national organizations in reimagining how to present underrepresented, minority populations in oral health and other health data.

In addition, throughout the first phase of the project, SPTHB will engage with Tribal health leaders and community representatives to establish a Tribal advisory group that will provide input and guidance over the duration of the project. This project will also be used as a mechanism to re-establish the state-wide American Indian Data Community of Practice (AIDCoP). This Community of Practice was formed in 2019 with representation from each of the 12 Tribal Epidemiology Centers across the country to specifically look at racial misclassification and ways to address it.

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