In response to the virtual March 31, 2022 Tribal Consultation on the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative®, NIH is incorporating Tribal input into the development of culturally relevant and appropriate research strategies that address the ongoing opioid crisis, which worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic and has had a particularly heavy public health burden on American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. The purpose of this Consultation was to request input from Tribal Nations about their priority areas of research interest and research-related needs to address the opioid crisis and support new strategies to improve chronic pain management and opioid misuse, addiction, and overdose in AI/AN communities. NIH efforts will seek to build on input from the 2018 Consultation and continue to adapt research strategies to fully address the local needs of AI/AN communities, which have experienced disproportionately high overdose deaths from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and stimulants like methamphetamines, and chronic pain. Research efforts also, by necessity, take into account the challenges related to strained healthcare systems and health inequities, stress, uncertainty, and social isolation that have had a heavy burden on AI/AN communities.

Key Points

Efforts launched by the NIH HEAL Initiative will be informed by:

  • Advancing Tribal and/or AI/AN-led research grounded in Tribal sovereignty by supporting AI/AN researchers and integrating traditional and cultural practices.
  • Building infrastructure for data resources to ensure accurate, real-time data specific to each AI/AN community and/or region, while respecting Indigenous data sovereignty and Tribal ownership.
  • Supporting holistic approaches to health and well-being for AI/AN communities by incorporating traditional healing practices with a focus on spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional health.
  • Understanding the person-specific experience of pain, including psychological and spiritual aspects, protective factors, and resilience grounded in AI/AN culture and practice.
  • Supporting access to integrative, community-defined health through community-centered delivery of interventions that are scalable and sustainable.
  • Exploring novel partnerships with AI/AN communities that, when desired, could connect traditional healing practices to Western therapeutic development infrastructure.
  • Supporting research on social and structural determinants of health, toward addressing the root causes of disparities.

Read the PDF icon Tribal Consultation Report.