Understanding rural healthcare in Alaska

By Paul Hollie
Monday, December 10, 2018

Video: Learn more about the issues Alaskans face when accessing healthcare in remote villages.Video by Alexandra Gunnoe, Corporate Communications.

Premera announced plans earlier this year to help address rural healthcare needs in Washington and Alaska. Since that announcement, Premera’s Rural Health Initiative team has been traveling to communities in our home states, speaking with experts and community members about the issues they face.

One of our trips took us to remote villages like Napaskiak and Unalakleet, Alaska. In many cases, outlying villages like these can only access healthcare through community health aides, requiring remote collaboration with physicians in the larger towns.

We met Robert Larson, a Napaskiak resident and general store manager, who shared with us the remote nature of his village, "All the things that we enjoy and like are a little harder to find here."

The community health aides who help provide culturally appropriate care are often community members who are committed to helping their neighbors. These programs, overseen by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, provide quality health services at the Alaska Native Medical Center and throughout the state through training, health education and rural water and sewer construction.

This was my second such tour of the state—each one organized by the Anchorage-based Rasmuson Foundation. This organization, whose mission is to promote a better life for Alaskans, works tirelessly to educate and inform the rest of us about the state. In addition to their own grant-making, which ranges from healthcare to homelessness to arts and many points in between, they serve as a convener of resources in and out of Alaska.

As for our work here at Premera, our team is working on an approach that will be unveiled in early 2019. That plan will set the course for our commitment to improving access to healthcare services for our neighbors living in rural areas in Washington and Alaska.   

Paul Hollie leads the Premera Social Impact program.

paul portrait

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