Stakeholder engagement: a model for tobacco policy planning in Oklahoma Tribal communities.
BACKGROUND: Oklahoma law pre-empts local governments from enacting smoking restrictions inside public places that are stricter than state law, but the sovereign status of Oklahoma's 38 Tribal nations means they are uniquely positioned to stand apart as leaders in the area of tobacco policy. PURPOSE: To provide recommendations for employing university-Tribal partnerships as an effective strategy for tobacco policy planning in tribal communities. METHODS: Using a community-based participatory research approach, researchers facilitated a series of meetings with key Tribal stakeholders in order to develop a comprehensive tobacco policy plan. Ongoing engagement activities held between January 2011 and May 2012, including interdepartmental visits, facility site tours, interviews, and attendance at tribal activities, were critical for fostering constructive and trusting relationships between all partners involved in the policy planning process. RESULTS: The 17-month collaborative engagement produced a plan designed to regulate the use of commercial tobacco in all Tribally owned properties. The extended period of collaboration between the researchers and Tribal stakeholders facilitated: (1) levels of trust between partners; and (2) a steadfast commitment to the planning process, ensuring completion of the plan amid uncertain political climates and economic concerns about tobacco bans. CONCLUSIONS: Extended engagement produced an effective foundation for policy planning that promoted collaboration between otherwise dispersed Tribal departments, and facilitated communication of diverse stakeholder interests related to the goal of tobacco policies. The findings of this study provide useful strategies and best practices for those looking to employ Tribal-university partnerships as strategies for tobacco control planning and policy-based research.