Health Disparities Research with American Indian Communities: The Importance of Trust and Transparency

Monica C. Skewes, Vivian M. Gonzalez, Julie A. Gameon, Paula FireMoon, Emily Salois, Stacy M. Rasmus, Jordan P. Lewis, Scott A. Gardner, Adriann Ricker, Martel Reum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities experience notable health disparities associated with substance use, including disproportionate rates of accidents/injuries, diabetes, liver disease, suicide, and substance use disorders. Effective treatments for substance use are needed to improve health equity for AI/AN communities. However, an unfortunate history of unethical and stigmatizing research has engendered distrust and reluctance to participate in research among many Native communities. In recent years, researchers have made progress toward engaging in ethical health disparities research by using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) framework to work in close partnership with community members throughout the research process. In this methodological process paper, we discuss the collaborative development of a quantitative survey aimed at understanding risk and protective factors for substance use among a sample of tribal members residing on a rural AI reservation with numerous systems-level barriers to recovery and limited access to treatment. By using a CBPR approach and prioritizing trust and transparency with community partners and participants, we were able to successfully recruit our target sample and collect quality data from nearly 200 tribal members who self-identified as having a substance use problem. Strategies for enhancing buy-in and recruiting a community sample are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)302-313
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number 5P20GM104417–02. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The authors express our sincere, heartfelt gratitude to the Substance Abuse and Resilience Project Community Advisory Board and to the participants who generously shared their knowledge and experiences with us. We also wish to thank Arthur W. Blume, Dennis Donovan, and Joseph P. Gone for their generous guidance on the development of the research project described in this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Society for Community Research and Action


  • American Indian/Alaska Native
  • Community-based participatory research
  • Methods
  • Process
  • Substance use


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