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National Baseline Study

A Study of Health, Wellness, and Safety of American Indian and Alaska Native Women Living in Tribal Communities
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Date Published
October 22, 2019

The National Baseline Study (NBS) is a study of health, wellness, and safety of American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) women living in Indian country and AN communities. The study is mandated by Title IX, Section 904(a) of the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005 (VAWA 2005), Pub. Law No. 109-162 (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 3796gg-10 note), as amended by Section 907(a) of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, Pub. L. No. 113-4. 

The information from this study is expected to educate and inform policymakers and the public about the public health and safety issues affecting AI and AN women as well as inform prevention and intervention efforts focused on Native people by identifying barriers to and possible solutions for dealing with these significant matters. 

Context of the Baseline Study

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has a trust responsibility to protect and act for the betterment of tribal nations. As DOJ’s research, development, and evaluation agency, NIJ is dedicated to improving knowledge on crime and justice through science conducted in a thoughtful, collaborative manner that respects tribal sovereignty and the self-determination of tribal governments.

Purpose of the Baseline Study

The NBS is designed to: 

  • Provide reliable data for important analyses that will address gaps not only in health and legal services and outcomes, but also in criminal jurisdiction, particularly for people living on tribal lands. 
  • Inform prevention and intervention efforts focused on Native people by identify barriers to and possible solutions for dealing with these significant matters. 
  • Provide important documentation on the study methods that will inform future research in AI and AN communities.

The key NBS goals are: 

  • To enlist randomly selected tribal households from a large number of federally recognized, land-based tribes where adult AI and AN women (18 years and older) reside in order to recruit them to voluntarily participate in the study. 
  • To administer a questionnaire specifically designed to gain a deeper understanding of the health and safety issues faced by AI and AN women living in AI and AN communities. 
  • To provide accurate data useful to formulate public policies and prevention strategies to decrease incidences of crime.

Study Design

The NBS will be conducted in geographically dispersed tribal communities across the U.S. (lower 48 and Alaska) using a NIJ-developed sampling strategy. 

All adult women in randomly selected tribal households are eligible to participate in the study if they:

  • Are 18 years of age and older.
  • Self-identify as or are enrolled as a members of a tribe.
  • Agree to participate in the study.


Tribes were selected using a plan developed by NIJ that allows for at least one tribe from each of the 12 Indian Health Service regions to be included in the study. This ensures that tribal communities that are geographically dispersed throughout the lower 48 and Alaska are represented in the study. The selected tribes will be approached to participate voluntarily.

Survey Content

The NBS instrument will collect information from adult AI and AN women regarding their health and wellness. The questionnaire was designed to help address gaps in health and legal services, particularly for those living on tribal lands. 

Data Collection Procedures

The survey will be administered in person through a combination of computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI) and audio computer-assisted self-interviewing (ACASI). With CAPI, an interviewer will read survey questions to the respondent, who will then enter her responses into a study laptop. The ACASI technique will be used during parts of the survey that address particularly sensitive subjects. For these questions, respondents will be given a touch-screen laptop and headphones. They will listen to a female voice read the questions, which also will be visible on the computer screen. Participants will enter their answers directly into the laptop.

Those participating will be administered a questionnaire that takes between 30 to 60 minutes to complete. 

Site-specific protocols will be developed and refined in partnership and coordination with participating tribal nations. This includes:

  • Identifying resources and interviewing facilities.
  • Providing study support services such as childcare, transportation, behavioral health specialists, interpreters, and local interviewers.
  • Obtaining confidentiality agreements and addressing any conflicts of interest.


Every precaution will be taken to ensure the privacy and rights of the tribal nations and individual respondents who volunteer to participate in the NBS. Because the NBS is a national, congressionally mandated and federally funded study, it requires review and approval from the Office of Management and Budget. This review includes an assessment of every aspect of the research design, including the data collection methods, sampling plans, and study protocols.

NBS contractors received Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval from their respective IRBs.

NBS staff will take additional steps to protect participants’ privacy, including privacy certificates, confidentiality agreements, and nondisclosure agreements with participating tribes, and information transfer agreements.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Baseline Study

General Questions About the Study

The NBS will provide national estimates and incident data that are important and can be used to formulate intervention and prevention strategies.

NIJ is responsible for overseeing all NBS activities.

The most important partners are the tribal communities that agree to participate in the study. NIJ, American Indian Development Associates (AIDA) and RTI International are also involved in the NBS study.

The findings and related study activities will be disseminated in a number of ways. Presentations will be conducted at conferences, meetings, webinars, and briefings related to health, wellness, and safety. Possible venues include the U.S. Department of Justice’s annual tribal consultation on Violence Against American Indian and Alaska Native Women and Biennial National Indian Nations Conference, the National Congress of American Indians Mid-Year Meeting and Marketplace, the Alaska Federation of Natives Annual Convention, and congressional briefings and tribal council meetings.

Publications also will be prepared for tribal and federal audiences across various channels, such as bulletins for NIJ’s and the Office on Violence Against Women’s websites; manuscripts for submission to tribal, trade and scholarly peer-reviewed publications; tribal community newsletter articles; and articles and interviews for news venues such as Indian Country Today and Native American Calling.

As publications become available, information on how to obtain copies will be made available on this website.

Yes, all of the information will be kept strictly confidential, meaning that all of the data will be stored without names, addresses or any other personally identifying information. All of the findings will be tallied and presented in such a way that the information cannot be linked to participants or tribes. Responses are protected from being released with identifying information to anyone.

We will not release the names of the tribes participating in the study. However, tribal leaders may decide on an individual basis to disclose that their tribe participated in the study. Even if this is the case, it will not be possible to link information to particular members of a tribe.


Questions About Tribes

Tribes were randomly selected from a list of federally recognized, land-based tribes. At least one tribe from each of the 12 Indian Health Service regions to be included in the study. This ensures that tribal communities that are geographically dispersed throughout the lower 48 and Alaska are represented in the study.

Since 1993, NIJ has worked successfully with tribal communities by ensuring collaboration and transparency through full partnerships that involve local buy-in and coordination. NIJ and the other study stakeholders are committed to continuing this tradition throughout the NBS process. This includes protecting the rights of tribal nations.

NIJ and NBS staff will secure permission and approval of tribal government authorities. Because participation is voluntary, NBS staff will communicate directly with tribal leaders to explain the study and gauge interest in participating. If tribal leaders express interest in participating, NIJ and AIDA staff will work directly with them to secure permission through tribal decision-making processes (i.e., via tribal council meetings, tribal resolutions, tribal institutional review or research review boards, Memoranda of Understanding, and participatory agreements). This includes data and information transfer and sharing agreements, as well as site-specific protocols to ensure the research does not harm the tribal community.

NIJ will not publically disclose the tribal nations that agree to participate in the study. Thus, tribes that wish to remain anonymous can do so.

Tribal involvement in the NBS is vital to the success of this research. Tribes that agree to participate will be involved in securing community support and providing input on research objectives, respectful strategies for documenting information, and ways to create safe and trusting environments for study participants. Tribes also will help identify resources for interviewing facilities and provide access to sampling sources.

Tribal respondents that participate in the NBS will receive compensation for their voluntary participation in the study. Tribes that participate will provide input throughout the study to promote the collection of accurate information that could help them develop prevention and intervention strategies to reduce victimization in their communities.


Questions About Participants

NIJ and NBS staff will secure permission and approval from tribal government authorities. This includes data and information transfer and sharing agreements and site-specific protocols to ensure the research does not harm participants.

Participants will be asked questions about their health and well-being, service needs and help-seeking behavior, as well as the types of support available to them.

The interview will be conducted in person and is expected to take between 30 to 60 minutes to complete.

Participation in the study is voluntary. Even if someone agrees to participate, she can withdraw her consent at any time. She also may choose to skip (or not answer) questions that she is not comfortable answering.

Households are selected at random after tribal leaders agree to participate in the NBS. Once NBS staff receive permission to conduct research in a community, they randomly select tribal households based on the sampling sources as provided by tribal leadership.

Women are invited to participate if they live in one of the selected households and meet the eligibility requirements. All women in the household age 18 and older who self-identify as AI and AN are eligible to participate.

The primary cost to participants is the time it takes to complete the interview. To the extent possible, NBS staff will provide whatever support services are needed for participants to reduce or eliminate the burden of participating in the study.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to volunteer to participate in this study. Participants have to be selected at random. In other words, everyone in the population must have an equal opportunity of being chosen to participate. It is important for participants to be randomly selected to ensure that the sample is representative of the population.

Date Published: October 22, 2019