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The Pala Band of Mission Indians’ Tribal Climate Health Project is Making Resilience Data More Accessible for U.S. Tribes

In the past five years, the Pala Band of Mission Indians’ Tribal Climate Health Project (TCHP) has leveraged funding from EPA, BIA, and CDC for capacity building and dataset development initiatives designed to make it easier for Tribes to address unique their health and other climate vulnerabilities using both western science and traditional knowledge.

Across the U.S., Tribes are already facing negative health and other impacts from extreme events and changing climate conditions such as heat-related illness, respiratory illness, water- and food-borne illness, vector-borne disease, and mental and psychosocial effects. Tribe-serving organizations nationwide increasingly recognize the urgent need to enhance access to health and other datasets necessary to help Tribes understand and respond to these growing vulnerabilities.

However, conducting assessments and plans designed to identify and address climate vulnerabilities can involve a tremendous amount of research and analysis. To gain an understanding of how the severity of current and projected risks are expected to affect the Tribe, the types of information gathered often include data on many changing climate conditions and exposures (e.g. heat, storms, wildfire) and the cascading effects on secondary exposures (e.g. air quality, water and food security) and impacts on health and social, natural, and built environments. In addition, there is a wide range of datasets related to community characteristics that can help a Tribe understand where it may be more sensitive or more adaptive or resilient to climate change. This data can come from external sources like state and federal agencies or universities, or from internal Tribal sources such as community perspectives, observations, and priorities; traditional knowledges; and existing internal data or reportss (e.g. hazard mitigation plans, soil erosion studies, storm records, water quality and air quality records, groundwater level data, transportation studies, and community health assessments).

TCHP recognized that this fact-finding process was overwhelming, costly, and time consuming for thousands of under-resourced U.S. Tribes already on the frontlines of climate change, and trainings and guides alone would not solve the problem. To help Tribes move forward more easily from planning to action, the program has worked to lower the burden of climate information fact-finding by optimizing access to meaningful and readily usable external data to support Tribal adaptation planning and supplemental monitoring needs. The program developed a customizable Excel-based tool called the Exposures, Impacts, and Strategies Inventory (EISI) tool, and made it available for free download so Tribes don’t have to start from scratch when beginning their adaptation planning processes. Based on years of reviewing the best literature, research, and national best practices, the EISI tool is designed to provide an inventory of available climate-related indicators and data sources information to make it easier for Tribes to assess and rank possible climate impact vulnerabilities and make decisions about how to address them with adaptation strategies.

“By organizing and sharing what we’ve learned through the EISI tool, we think Tribes can cut out more than half of the external fact-finding heavy lifting involved in early adaptation planning.” Angie Hacker, Prosper Sustainably, Lead Consultant for TCHP

The functionality of this tool is continuously evolving as TCHP aims to make it more useful and user-friendly for Tribes, but initial users have provided positive feedback. The Pala Band of Mission Indians uses the tool in their own ongoing adaptation planning and supplemental monitoring processes. It has also worked with neighboring Tribes in southern California to use, test, and refine the tool, and to identify outstanding data gaps. Tribal-serving California State agencies enthusiastically recommend and use the tool when supporting tribal adaptation planning efforts. To further advance tribal resilience data access solutions, TCHP is facilitating a National Tribal Resilience Data Workgroup comprised of experts from across the country and from all sectors.

TCHP hopes to help Tribes can retain their capacity for other critical needs such as working within their community to determine priorities, make informed decisions, and take action to address the health and other impacts resulting from climate change. If you are gathering information to assess tribal climate change vulnerability and feeling overwhelmed, the TCHP’s EISI tool is a great place to start. Feel free to access the EISI tool, along with a guide and webinar recording on how to access tribal climate and health resilience data. Contact for more information.