The formation of the Tribal Public Health Unit in 2008 was a direct result of the four federally recognized Tribes in Maine coming together in partnership with the Maine CDC. The first staff was hired in 2009, and the positions consisted of two Public Health Liaisons.
Initially the work consisted of health promotion and disease prevention. The Liaisons contributed to the work being done in public health districts that corresponded with tribal communities. They also worked, in collaboration, with the five Tribal Health Directors in Maine during the development and implementation of Wabanaki Health Assessment, which was conducted in 2011. The assessment that was conducted was the largest of any tribe, or group of tribes, east of the Mississippi.
The Wabanaki Public Health District (formerly Tribal Public Health Unit) was established in statute in June 2011. As the 9th Public Health District in Maine, WPHD serves the four tribes located in five communities, which consist of the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, The Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians, the Passamaquoddy at Indian Township and at Pleasant Point, and the Penobscot Nation members on and off reservation.
As a result of becoming a public health district, the focus of the work changed to development of a Tribal Public Health Infrastructure. This district is complementary to the 8 public health districts established by the Maine CDC, however is unique, as it is an intergovernmental relationship between the State of Maine and the Tribes as Sovereign Nations.