Objectives: Using a community-based participatory research approach, a tribe-university team conducted a formative assessment of local factors that influence youth wellness to guide the design of a culturally and locally relevant health promotion program.
Methods: Open-ended interviews with key informants, a school self-assessment using the Centers for Disease Control's School Health Index, and a locally generated environmental inventory provided data that were triangulated to yield a composite of influential factors and perceived need within the community.
Results: Family involvement and personal goal setting were identified as key to youth wellness. Supportive programs were described as having consistent adult leadership, structured activities, and a positive local and regional image. Availability of illicit drugs and alcohol, poor teacher attitude, and lack of adult involvement were significant negative factors that impact youth behavior.
Conclusions: Local/native (emic) and university/nonnative (etic) perspectives and abilities can be combined to yield a culturally relevant formative assessment that is useful to public health planning. In this collaborative effort, standard means of data collection and analysis were modified in some cases to enhance and build upon the knowledge and skills of community researchers.