Health and wellness in rural communities discussed at Arctic Encounter Symposium
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Arctic Encounter Symposium of 2023 hosted a panel of health experts as well as developers to discuss the importance of health and wellness in rural Alaska.
Chief Medical Officer of the State of Alaska Dr. Anne Zink spoke on the declining life expectancy in the United States, and why that may be.
“I think that’s because of our lack of integration between public health, health care, and all these kind of social determinants of health, housing, culture, infrastructure,” Zink said.
When looking at ways to improve the ceiling for health in Alaska, one of the best solutions that panelists had was to put money behind the infrastructure of the communities to raise the standard of living.
“Exercising our tribal sovereignty and making sure that we use them in a way that addresses things like water and sanitation services, you know, those social determinants of health that really determine how we’re healthy as an individual and as a community,” Director of Wellness and Prevention of the Health and Wellness Tribal Consortium Dana Diehl said.
But they also said that ensuring the health of those in the community is not just reliant on treating the systems, but to ensure that those living in the region have a strong foundation.
“Of course, social determinants are important. They’re still there, the risk factors. But if we only studied the problems, how do we work with solutions,” Head of Research, Center for Public Health in Greenland, Christina Viskum Lytken Larsen said.
And Diehl spoke on how Indigenous perspectives in relation to health and wellness can provide a bigger picture when recognizing health on an individual as well as a societal level.
“It really is that holistic perspective, the connection between mind, body, and spirit, and not doing things where you’re separating out, like, the physical health, from the mental health and making sure everything is connected when you’re talking about wellness at the individual and community level,” Diehl said.
Diehl gave further examples of how youth programming focused on cultural activities has benefited children living in these rural communities.
“We’ve seen with some of the youth programming that we implement alongside schools, the youth are more connected. And they’re less likely to engage in risky behaviors when we do things like that,” Diehl said.
The Arctic Encounters Symposium continued on Friday, hosting further discussion on indigenizing education in K-12 and college environments.
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