The Division of Community Health Services (DCHS) monitors and improves the health of Alaska Natives by conducting research on important health issues, and by providing education for prevention.
The division's staff monitors trends in deaths and illness, and develops comprehensive regional and community-based solutions for priority health problems. DCHS provides technical assistance to communities and tribal health programs, and develops partnerships with other agencies for these purposes.
In the past year, the division worked to expand and develop the Alaska Native Traditional Food Safety program. This program monitors heavy metal and industrial pollutant levels in the tissue of mothers and newborn infants. Monitoring was expanded to include the communities of the Eastern Aleutian Tribes and Aleutian/Pribilof Islands Association, and to Aleuts living in the Russian Aleutian Islands and Kamchatka Peninsula. These metals and pollutants are found in western foods as well as in subsistence foods. The monitoring project is made possible through partnerships with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State of Alaska.
The division is in its second year of a nearly $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Seven new areas are being investigated in this Native American Research Center for Health project. These include: childhood disabilities, traditional food in pregnancy, helicobacter pylori infection, pneumococcal infection, telemedicine, traditional food and Hepatitis B. Projects will take two to four years to complete, and will lead to better understanding about important health issues for Alaska Natives.
The Health Services Resources Administration awarded $1.75 million over 3 1/2 years to begin an early AIDS/HIV intervention program. Awarded under the Ryan White Care Act, ANTHC is the first Native American recipient. Early intervention clinics are held at Alaska Native Medical Center, with 83 people on the active patient list. Staff visited sites across Alaska for regional patient care, education presentations and chart reviews. They presented other training and education sessions in various statewide locations and at medical conferences to encourage HIV recognition and screening efforts.
Community Health Services also authored a portion of the federal Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Report for 2002, which reported on the pollution levels in various media-such as the air, foods, people and wildlife-in the Arctic. It also authored part of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, which looks at the impact of climate change on the residents of the Arctic.
A newly added staff position has taken on the job of working to help Alaska Natives return to their communities after serving time in the state's correctional facilities. This outreach and prevention service attempts to help the re-entry process by offering ways to reconnect to culture. The prison outreach program offers cultural enrichment activities, as well as support services (contacts for job placement services or housing) and educational materials.
The division worked to provide training opportunities for the first group of Consortium sponsored dental health aides and created similar opportunities for the training of the first dental mid-level practitioners in the United States. Those who took part in those programs now have the opportunity to practice in villages, conducting minor examinations, cleanings and education for good dental health.
Funding also was received to develop training for behavioral health aides in the coming year.