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Episode #219 Public Health Communication And Improving Data Access, With Joshua Smith


On this episode of the Public Health Epidemiology Conversations (PHEC) Podcast


Navigating your prospective career options can sometimes feel like trying to find something in a fog. You’re stumbling around, doing your best to reach your destination, but you don’t really know what it is you’re looking for until you find it; and then it all makes sense. That is how today’s guest, Joshua Smith, describes his journey into public health. Joshua is an enrolled member of the Klamath tribes and serves as a Health Communication and Evaluation Specialist with the Improving Data and Enhancing Access Project at the Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center (NWTEC).


This episode of the Public Health Epidemiology Conversations (PHEC) Podcast is part of a special sponsored series of episodes, offering insights into the Tribal Epidemiology Centers in the US. In Dr. Huntley’s conversation with Joshua, they discuss his perspective on public health, epidemiology, and the impact of tribal epidemiology centers on the tribal communities that he serves.


Tuning in, you’ll hear them discuss his current focus on how to best communicate health surveillance data in American Indians and Alaska Natives residing in the Pacific Northwest, as well as the data sharing toolkit that he has been working on. Joshua also shares his advice for those looking to pursue a career in public health. Tune in to the full episode and conversation to learn more about the importance of data sharing and what a career in public health can mean for your community!


Listen To This Episode of the Public Health Epidemiology Conversations (PHEC) Podcast






Key Points From This Episode


  • Introducing our special series on Tribal Epidemiology Centers, also known as TECs.

  • Get to know today’s guest, Joshua Smith from the Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center.

  • How growing up on a reservation and seeing the impact of substance abuse problems on Native communities influenced his journey into public health.

  • Some of the difficulties Joshua experienced as a first-generation student.

  • Skills Joshua was able to gain in research and statistics while pursuing his postgrad degree in clinical psychology, despite not completing the program.

  • The data sharing toolkit that Joshua has been developing over the past few months.

  • The technical and legal steps that need to be cleared to make use of data sharing.

  • How the data sharing toolkit is empowering Native Communities to confidently approach the legal and technical aspects of data sharing.

  • The NWTEC and the public health conditions they are currently focusing on.

  • Identifying Native American and Alaskan Natives in public health surveillance systems.

  • The importance of epidemiology in the work that they are doing for the community.

  • Joshua shares his tips for those who are interested in pursuing a career in public health.


Career Advice to Public Health Students and Graduates

  1. Be adaptive, public health is a multidisciplinary field where you might have to dip into fields/ tasks you never knew existed

  2. Relationships are important, you can have all the legal backing behind what you’re doing but if someone doesn’t return your email you’re not getting anywhere

  3. Keep a sense of humor, change that will impact things at a population level takes time. It’s easy to feel defeatist but you have to find the time the laugh at funny parts of your job


Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center (NWTEC)


The mission of the Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center (The EpiCenter) is to collaborate with Northwest American Indian Tribes to provide health-related research, surveillance, training and technical assistance to improve the quality of life of American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/ANs). The EpiCenter is one of twelve national Centers charged with collecting tribal health status data, evaluating data monitoring and delivery systems, and assisting tribes in identifying local priorities for healthcare delivery and health education. Since 1997, The EpiCenter has administered a number of successful health research and surveillance projects serving the Northwest Tribes. The EpiCenter serves the 43 federally recognized tribes in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.


Tribal Epidemiology Centers


Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TEC) are Indian Health Service (IHS), division funded organizations who serve American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) Tribal and urban communities by managing public health information systems, investigating diseases of concern, managing disease prevention and control programs, responding to public health emergencies, and coordinating these activities with other public health authorities.


Tribal Epidemiology Centers provide various types of support and services due to the variation of the TECs organization structure, divisions, Tribal populations, and their mission and goals. There are currently 12 Tribal Epidemiology Centers in the United States.


Each month, one of the Tribal Epidemiology Centers will be featured here on the podcast. The purpose is to raise awareness throughout the public health community of the amazing and important public health work that is being done at each of the centers.


In this episode, we will feature the Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center.


Get Connected


Urban Indian Health Institute

Episode #154: Interview with Tommy Ghost Dog and Celena McCray, Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center

Klamath Tribes

Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center on LinkedIn

Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center on Twitter

Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center on Facebook

Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center on Instagram