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State using survey to identify major health concerns in Alaska

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Posted: Sunday, October 7, 2012 11:53 pm

FAIRBANKS — The state of Alaska is asking for the public’s help in identifying community health concerns.

Healthy Alaskans 2020 is a statewide initiative stemming from the nationwide Healthy People program. Healthy People has developed a new science-based agenda for health improvements every decade for more than 30 years. Alaska caught on in the 1990s, first targeting the year 2000.

This decade’s goals include data collection and examination in addition to input solicitation through a public survey. By the end of the 18-month process, the program will identify specific problem areas and form a plan of action for 2020.

The initiative is run in collaboration between the state of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. The two decided to work together after receiving grants through the National Public Health Improvement Initiative.

The survey, which closes Oct. 22, takes less than 15 minutes to complete.

The questions are based on participants’ level of concern in five categories: health behaviors, access to care, social and economic factors, physical environment and health outcomes.

“It opens channels of communication that tend to get lost when we’re not engaged in this kind of activity,” said Alice Rarig, head of the core planning team.

Issues on the survey are numerous, and include such topics as substance abuse and environmental quality, but there is always room for more input.

“We’re asking people to identify topics we may not have put into the initial list,” Rarig said. One idea that was absent from the survey and has been suggested is safe and affordable housing for homeless or at-risk Alaskans.

“By working together on these important health issues,” the program’s website states, “we can help improve health for all communities in Alaska.”

Focusing on underlying causes rather than the issue itself, the program hopes to affect the direction of funding and implement projects such as youth facilities, workplace exercise and affordable fresh foods to decrease issues such as obesity.

“I bet every one of us involved has some specific items that we except to see happen,” Rarig said.

The initiative’s advisory team will meet Nov. 14 to discuss the outcome of the survey. The meeting will be open to the public.

“If you really want to make a difference,” Rarig said, “what are you going to do about it?”

Participate in the Healthy Alaskans 2020 survey online at: www.ha2020.alaska.gov.

Contact the newsroom at newsroom@newsminer.com or 459-7572.

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