Vice Chairman Murkowski: It Is Time HHS Take Action to Ensure Tribal Health Data Access

Recently, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, delivered remarks at the Committee’s legislative hearing to receive testimony on six bills, including, S.1397, the Tribal Health Data Improvement Act of 2021, sponsored by Vice Chairman Murkowski with Senator Tina Smith (D-MN).

“During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 12 Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TECs) in the country, which includes the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, faced significant challenges in accessing health information about American Indians and Alaska Natives. And, in some cases, TECs were outright denied access to life-saving data that the CDC routinely made available to other public health authorities, including state and local health departments. Access to epidemiological data is vital for TECs to provide accurate and timely public health information, including recommendations, to the Native communities they serve,” said Vice Chairman Murkowski. “Our bill amends the Public Health Service Act to ensure Indian Tribes, Tribal Organizations and TECs have access to public health data and surveillance programs guaranteed to them as tribal public health authorities under existing federal law. I hope following our legislative hearing, we can get this bill done so that there are no further needless delays in accessing important health data.”

Click here to watch Senator Murkowski’s remarks.

The following witnesses testified during the legislative hearing:

  • The Honorable Bryan Newland, Assistant Secretary–Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC
  • Mr. Marvin Figueroa, Director, Intergovernmental and External Affairs, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, DC
  • The Honorable Gwendena Lee-Gatewood, Chairwoman, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Whiteriver, AZ
  • The Honorable Amelia Flores, Chairwoman, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Parker, AZ
  • The Honorable Harry Pickernell, Sr., Chairman, Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, Oakville, WA
  • The Honorable Lebaron Byrd, Chief, MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians, Mt. Vernon, AL
  • Dr. Darin Prescott, Director and Clinic CEO, Lower Sioux Indian Community and Great Lakes Area Tribal Health Board, Morton, MN

Click here to watch the video of the hearing and to read the witnesses’ testimony. 

Related Issues: Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska