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TEC History and Purpose

The Tribal Epidemiology Center (TEC) program was authorized by Congress in 1996 as a way to provide enhanced public health support to multiple Tribes and Urban Indian communities in each of the 12 IHS Areas.

TECs are uniquely positioned within Tribal and Urban Indian communities to effectively conduct disease surveillance, public health research, prevention and control of disease, injury or disability, and to assess the effectiveness of AI/AN health delivery and public health programs. In addition, TECs successfully fill performance data gaps for IHS by tracking and reporting technical assistance and outreach to constituent Tribes, supporting the agency’s Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) reporting requirements and annual budget requests. TECs have developed and implemented innovative strategies to monitor the health status of their supported Tribes and Urban Indian communities, including establishment of Tribal health registries and the use of sophisticated record-linkage methods to improve the accurate capture of AI/AN race within existing public health data sets. Overall, the TECs work in partnership with IHS DEDP to provide a more accurate national picture of Indian health status.

TECs provide critical support for activities that promote Tribal self-governance and effective management of Tribal and Urban Indian health programs. Data generated locally and analyzed by TECs enable Tribes and Urban Indian communities to effectively plan and make decisions that best meet the needs of their communities. In addition, TECs can immediately provide feedback to local data systems to foster timely improvements in Indian health data and related systems. TECs also directly support Tribal and Urban Indian communities by providing expertise and technical training in public health practice and prevention-oriented research, and by promoting general awareness and interest in career opportunities within public health that support AI/AN communities.

As more Tribes choose to operate health programs independently within their own communities, TECs may ultimately expand their public health services to include enhanced roles in disease control and prevention programs, among others. Some TECs are already providing assistance to Tribal and Urban Indian communities in areas like sexually transmitted disease (STD) control, cancer prevention, and establishing baseline data for successfully evaluating intervention and prevention activities.

Through sustained partnership, the TEC program will continue to enhance the ability of IHS and the overall Indian health system to collect and manage data more effectively and to better understand and develop the link between public health problems and behavior, socioeconomic conditions, geography and other risk factors.