President’s Update for Dec. 4, 2010

In this edition...

In this edition … Feds hold listening session on suicide: Two SEARHC employees — Libby Watanabe and Wilbur Brown — participated in a “listening session” about suicide prevention on Tuesday, Nov. 30, in Anchorage. The Indian Health Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and other federal agencies sponsored the listening session, which is part of a series of 10 federal listening sessions on suicide taking place around Indian Country. Many villagers from around Alaska spoke about the personal and community impact suicide has had on their lives. Libby spoke about the need for sustained long-term funding for social service programs, and less reliance on short-term grants that launch suicide prevention efforts only to see them unfunded a few years later. Wilbur spoke frankly about being a survivor of suicide and the difficult experiences as a pre-hospital provider dealing with the results of a suicide. After the listening sessions are concluded, the federal agencies will host a national conference on suicide prevention next year, but a date and locations have not been announced. Back to top Alaska Native rate of hepatitis A drops from nation’s highest to lowest: A recent article in the journal “Vaccine” describes how Alaska’s hepatitis A vaccination program has virtually eliminated hepatitis A infections in the state, while also reducing the rate among Alaska Natives from the nation’s highest to its lowest. According to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Alaska experienced huge outbreaks of hepatitis A (a highly contagious liver infection) in the 1970s that basically paralyzed the state’s health system, especially among Alaska Native people who had a significantly higher rate of the disease than other ethnic groups. Alaska Native people used to account for more than 60 percent of hepatitis A cases, even though they only make up 16 percent of the state’s population. The last big outbreak was in the 1990s, which resulted in four deaths. In 1996, the state implemented a universal hepatitis A vaccine for all Alaska children ages 2-14. Health officials say the vaccination program has helped prevent further outbreaks, but if the program stopped the disease would return. Back to top Congressional budget remains on Continuing Resolutions: The Congress passed another continuing resolution to keep government functions going for the next two weeks as they hammer out a compromise to pass a budget for 2011. We have been waiting for a final budget to be passed since the Oct. 1 start of this current Federal Fiscal Year (2011). It easily takes two weeks for the federal government to pay us under our funding agreement following a passed budget. This is the second continuing resolution so far this year and will cover the period through Dec. 17. We expect it will take nearly that long to receive two weeks of funding. As such, cash management is always a challenge at year end and while we are waiting for our compact funds from the Indian Health Service. Back to top Honoring Our Veterans/Walk for Diabetes Awareness: The Kake Health Promotion program teamed up with the Community Family Services program and Kake City School District to host the Honoring Our Veterans/Walk for Diabetes Awareness event on Saturday, Nov. 8 in Kake. The event attracted 105 participants (80 students and 25 adults), who took a 20-30 minute walk around town. In addition to honoring veterans, the walk also promoted diabetes awareness with adults being presented with two different booklets about how to have a healthy heart and how to take care of yourself by walking. Back to top Addressing elder falls: On Thursday, Dec. 9, SEARHC employees that provide care and services to elders will meet to find better ways to work together to prevent falls. In addition to medical providers and injury prevention, others expected to attend the meeting include optometrists, physical therapists, pharmacists, health promotion and environmental services workers. SEARHC Health Promotion received a five-year Indian Health Service grant in September to address elder falls prevention in the region. This year the grant targets Angoon, Kake and Sitka, with other communities to be added later. Back to top Gene Tagaban to lead workshops and perform in Northern Southeast Alaska: The SEARHC WISEWOMAN Women’s Health and Colorectal Cancer Screening Program will host noted Tlingít performer Gene Tagaban for several events next week in Haines, Klukwan and Skagway. Gene will lead a drum-making workshop at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood/Alaska Native Sisterhood Hall in Haines, and he will lead an Art of Storytelling workshop/performance at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 10, at the Skagway Traditional Council building in Skagway. These two events are free and open to the public. Gene also will lead workshops for the students and teachers of Klukwan, Haines and Skagway schools. We are also planning for other communities across the region. Back to top Regards, Roald