UW News

March 26, 2001

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds UW digital tribal outreach project

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing a $393,435 grant to the Tribal Connections project co-sponsored by the University of Washington and the National Library of Medicine. The collaboration will open access to electronic health information resources for Southwest Native American tribes.

Through the Foundation’s Native American Access to Technology project, over 100 American Indian communities in the Southwest United States are being equipped with computers, software and technical support. The Gates Foundation grant will combine the health information outreach of Tribal Connections with the technology infrastructure provided by the Foundation and help bridge the digital divide. Tribal Connections is a project of the UW Regional Medical Library and is under contract to the National Library of Medicine, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Tribal Connections provides assistance with computer network and telecommunications planning, equipment and training in the use of electronic health information. Sixteen Northwest tribes and villages have already benefited from the health information and resources provided by Tribal Connections. In 2000, the National Library of Medicine provided additional funding to extend this innovative model for health information outreach to four additional tribal communities in the Southwest United States.

According to recent data from the Indian Health Service, Native Americans experience higher rates of illness and death than other races. The Foundation says the digital divide also holds tribal members back economically and socially. This collaboration between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Regional Medical Library is an attempt to build on the strengths of each and directly address the digital divide in Indian country. The health disparity will be indirectly addressed as well.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people’s lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community. Led by Bill Gates’ father, William H. Gates and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based foundation has an asset base of $21 billion. For complete information, visit www.gatesfoundation.org.