CARES Act grant to prevent and respond to COVID-19 in tribal communities

Native American Center of Excellence - elder

The Northwest Native American Center of Excellence at OHSU recently received a CARES Act grant* to address the impact of COVID-19 in tribal communities across Oregon, Idaho and Washington.

The grant will support research and outreach collaborations between the center and the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in tribal communities in the Pacific Northwest. 

Digital health education campaign: Culturally nuanced, tribally directed

Image above from the Exercise Safe Sweats digital health PSA campaign.

The organizations have a history of successful collaboration, through an innovative digital health PSA created in partnership with We R Native. The video series, Exercise Safe Sweats has received more than 50,000 views nationwide, driven in part by national media coverage. The team will use the CARES Act funds to create up to six additional PSAs.

According the Oregon Health Authority, rates of COVID-19 among Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Black people have been more than four times that of whites in Oregon.

From the grant activities overview: “While many forms of information have been offered in the digital media and telehealth information space, few are specific to the nuances of [American Indian/Alaskan Native] AIAN culture or feature AIAN subjects. There are specific circumstances where tribally directed content stands to help mitigate misinformation, while offering solutions and ideas for adapting within one’s culture in order to protect their self and community during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Assessment: Tribal health workforce vacancies and access to care for tribal people during the COVID-19 pandemic

The teams will also conduct a tribal health workforce survey across Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and develop an economic impact report.

“Unsurprisingly, well-resourced communities and health care systems are experiencing better outcomes than under-resourced ones during the pandemic,” says Erik Brodt, M.D., center director and assistant professor of family medicine, School of Medicine. “The Indian Health Service operates with funding of approximately $4,000 per capita, while the national average is approximately $10,000 per capita. The burden of COVID-19 on Indian Country will likely be grave.”

Epidemiological research: COVID-19 morbidity and mortality in American Indians and Alaska Natives

Funds will also support morbidity and mortality research being conducted at the NPAIHB Tribal Epidemiology Center, where up to six AIAN learners will be added and a new COVID-19 social media campaign will be developed.

Into action

“When the center received the grant, we hit the ground immediately with some cool projects in partnership with the NPAIHB and tribes,” Brodt said.

“There’s no time to waste if we are going to transform the educational ecosystem.”


*The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed in March in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. This grant is a CARES Act supplement for the Health Resources and Services Administration Centers of Excellence Programs.