Prevention and Policy Programs

Cancer is the leading cause of death for American Indian/Alaska Native women and the second leading cause of death for American Indian men. Prevention of some cancers is achievable through healthy lifestyle choices — avoiding commercial tobacco, drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all, maintaining healthy body weight and exercising regularly. Individual behavior change is not the only important influential factor. Where we live, learn, work, play, and what food is available also determines if a person, family or community is healthy. Policy, system and environmental (PSE) change strategies present solutions to achieve positive health outcomes across Indian Country.

Culture is Cancer Prevention: American Indian communities have the solutions to eliminate cancer burdens.

Policy, system and environmental (PSE) change is a framework for creating sustainable, long term, positive community health outcomes and can support culturally tailored AI/AN health priorities. PSE change can be related to a universal Indigenous worldview by looking at how policies, systems and environments played a role in contributing to vibrant AI/AN communities throughout history.

Policy can be thought of as the guiding principles for ways of living (respect your elders, never take more than you need and respect for all living things). Systems can be thought of as the building blocks of a community that allow it to function as a whole and ensure well-being (family, clan, food, medicine and government systems). Environment can be thought of as the natural and built world around us and how we physically interact with it (planting gardens, fertilizing the ground, harvesting food and seasonal practices for survival).

AICAF provides technical assistance and support to AI/AN communities and organizations in developing policy, systems and environmental change to promote health equity, cancer prevention and healthy norms within American Indian communities with a focus on tobacco, healthy eating and physical activity. AICAF works in partnership with AI/AN communities and organizations in conversations and activities to, engage, empower and educate communities for action and innovation.

The framework we utilize is based on a health in all policies approach (HiAP), which AICAF continues to raise awareness with tribal leaders. Prevention and Policy staff have been authentically engaging several tribal communities and organizations to identify community readiness and action for tribal policy, system and environmental change initiatives through all phases from development, enactment into governance and enforcement. For a list of opportunities and ways that we partner with Tribal Communities click here

For more information regarding our prevention & policy work, please contact Melanie Plucinski


Policy, System and Environmental Change Strategies and Impacts

This chart is to help one understand policy, system and environmental change strategies by providing example descriptions and the impacts the strategies would bring.

Sacred Traditional Tobacco for Healthy Native Communities: A Balanced Community for Health

In order to effectively change norms around harmful use of tobacco and improve health in American Indian communities, efforts need to be broad and comprehensive. Read More...

A health in all policies approach can achieve impactful positive change to support strong and healthy future generations.

AICAF has developed multiple versions of this resource that represent Northern Plains tribal communities as well as several Southwest tribal communities. Graphics representing Apache, Navajo, Pueblo and Ute tribes were created in partnership with the Southwest Tribal Tobacco Coalition and the Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center. One can find a link to all of these graphics by clicking the above image.

Healthy Eating for Strong Native Communities

Policy, systems and environmental change initiatives need to be broad and comprehensive in order to effectively alter norms around healthy eating in American Indian communities. Read More...

This resource provides tribal communities with ideas and solutions to improve tribal food systems and promote Indigenous health.

Working Toward Health Equity: Critical Conversations with American Indians in Minnesota

Convening Elders: American Indian Tobacco & Culture

The American Indian Cancer Foundation hosted a Convening of Elders on American Indian Tobacco and Culture on September 25th, 2014. Read More...

Fifteen participants shared stories on traditional tobacco use, the harms that commercial tobacco imposes on our people, and how to engage youth around traditional tobacco knowledge. AICAF staff were honored to share in the conversations and to listen to the words of our elders. Moving forward we are guided in our work by what was shared with us. We will incorporate the teachings into future projects and “next steps.” This report reflects what we heard that day, highlighting priorities that will help shape future AICAF goals, projects and activities.

AICAF Health Policy for Healthy Eating, Physical Activity, Tobacco and Alcohol

Approved by the AICAF Board of Directors on May 17, 2013 with updates approved January 20, 2016. 

The Lower Sioux Indian Community's Honoring Little Crow with Healthy and Indigenous Foods Initiative Resolution

Passed September 20th, 2016 by Tribal Council, this resolution was supported by AICAF and  developed in partnership with the Lower Sioux Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and the Public Health Law Center. Read More...

The Resolution calls for (1) healthy and Indigenous vending at community locations (2) healthy and indigenous vendors at the community powwow and (3) the development of a strategic plan for various food outlets.

For more information, please view our webinar:
or contact Melanie Plucinski at

The Prairie Island Indian Community Healthier Environments Resolution and Policy

Passed March 8th, 2017 by Tribal Council, this resolution and policy was supported by AICAF and developed in partnership with the Public Health Law Center. Read More...

The policy (1) prohibits all harmful, non-ceremonial use of commercial tobacco use within all non-commercial buildings owned and all outdoor areas within 50 feet of entrances, exits and windows (2) prohibits all non-ceremonial use of tobacco use of any kind within all community playgrounds and outdoor recreational areas and (3) highlights the importance of promoting and supporting the use of sacred traditional tobacco.

Real Stories: American Indian Cancer Foundation

Glossary of Prevention & Policy Terms