Communications, social marketing and outreach are rapidly becoming recognized as a core function or competency in the field of public health[1]. Developments such as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have brought about a series of new community outreach-related challenges for Urban Indian Health Programs. Given the diversity in services provided, the differences in developmental stages of Urban Indian Health Programs’, it is imperative that information is shared in a coordinated, culturally competent manner that identifies the relationships in the plight of American Indian Healthcare and the uniqueness of the Urban Indian Health Programs (UIHPs).

NCUIH has developed the capacity to serve its memberships communicational needs through a series of offline and online platforms, including:

Aiming to improve its capacity, NCUIH is currently conducting a national Urban Indian health marketing and outreach capabilities assessment that will provide an improved perspective on the aggregate and specific communicational needs of its membership. As such, NCUIH is especially suited to assist UIOs in the development of national, regional and local marketing strategies and campaigns.

Marketing and Outreach Needs

Urban Indian Health Programs (UIHP’s) across the United States participate in a series of national campaigns, events, and initiatives related to policy and healthcare reform—such as the National Indian Health and Outreach Education (NIHOE), the Center for Medicaid/Medicare Services (CMS) Marketplace & Exchanges Navigators, and other programs dealing policy issues in behavioral health. These campaigns offer new challenges that require an improved set of partnerships and collaborative efforts with other UIOs, national Indian and non-Indian organizations, key state and local health entities, and education and safety networks.

Historical Challenges

Due to their unique evolution within their local environment, UIHPs have mostly garnered attention from those who support and depend on the services delivered. Little is known among mainstream communities about the hardships and specific circumstances of UI communities in urban settings. This has generated a series of myths and misperceptions about the Native American population living in the cities as well as well as it has hindered their social marketing operations within the larger community.

Infrastructure Challenges

Diverse local circumstances have brought about a gamut of different developmental communication and outreach infrastructure across UIHP. Thus communication platforms vary immensely according to services each offers as well as the funds available for communications-related activities. The latter has traditionally been mostly focused on local needs and not on national campaigns. The development of culturally appropriate, customized marketing strategies in combination with coordinated national, regional and local marketing campaigns is the optimal manner to both addresses the misperception as well as to assist UIHPs in improving their experience, expertise and capabilities in marketing their activities and foster better outcomes for their outreach activities.

NCUIH’s public relations and marketing strategy includes a memoranda of understanding with key “partner” organizations; representation at national events and I/T/U meetings; resources gathering for the creation of customized and culturally appropriate materials--including a combination of print media, social media messaging, presentations at conferences, and community outreach activities. NCUIH’s involvement in national initiatives ensures consistency and accuracy of the information is being disseminated.


[1] Abroms, Lorien C. et Al.  Communication and Marketing as tools to cultivate the Public’s health: a proposed ‘people and places’ framework. BioMed Central. Washington, D.C, 2007.