Tag Archives: alaska

Study tracks benefit of dental therapists in tribal communities

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: JBLM-PAO via Flickr

Residents of Alaskan tribal communities regularly served by dental therapists are receiving more preventive care and experiencing fewer tooth extractions than people living in communities without these dental workers, a peer-reviewed study has concluded.

Researchers for the study, published online by the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, analyzed 10 years’ worth of Medicaid and electronic health records data for patients served by the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, part of a tribal health system that provides care to thousands of Alaska Natives.  Continue reading

Obama’s Alaska trip highlights health, too

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Gulkana WSR via photopin (license)Alaska’s dramatic landscape, seen here at Gulkana River, a popular sportfishing river known for its salmon and other fish.

Photo: Gulkana WSR via photopin (license)Alaska’s dramatic landscape, seen here at Gulkana River, a popular sportfishing river known for its salmon and other fish.

President Barack Obama’s trip to Alaska this week is aimed at highlighting climate change and the environment, but his health care overhaul has turned up in the news, too.

This particular story by Alaska Public Media’s Annie Feidt paints the Alaskan health landscape in full relief, profiling the state’s top health official amid wrangling over the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, or so-called Obamacare. Continue reading

For psyches, Gulf is Valdez on ‘fast forward’

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

CNN’s Jessica Ravitz reports that the damage to Gulf communities in the wake of the spill has played out like a faster version of the disintegration of Cordova, Alaska, in the wake of Exxon Valdez. Unfortunately, she writes, that doesn’t mean a quicker route to recovery. It just means a deeper dive into discombobulation and destruction. Ravitz profiles the local victims and those reaching out to help them. In the process, she paints a bleak long-term picture.

Concern about communities sends [environmental sociologist Steven] Picou on an 80-mile drive west to Bayou La Batre, a small fishing town on the opposite side of Mobile Bay. He’s traveling around the Gulf Coast to where people are hurting – to start conversations, impart what he’s learned and teach people how to listen to each other. It’s a response modeled after programs devised in Alaska.

“Unlike a natural disaster where you have a therapeutic community emerging to help you rebuild, we know that in Alaska a corrosive community emerged,” he says. “All of a sudden you have this incredible collapse of community capital.”

He describes how people may self-isolate to cope and how their distrust of others will grow and likely spread. Cynicism about BP, he says, will move on to the federal government, the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, local governments, neighbors. Even family.

Ravitz looks at the strong sense of community now present in these places and whether the changes wrought by an influx of new people and money from BP will be permanent. She also reports that domestic violence shelters and hotlines are busier than ever as stress builds and and oil workers, who used to be away from home for weeks at a time, are now stuck on land.

For its part, BP has so far declined a request from Louisiana for $10 million for mental health aid for its residents. Catholic Charities is waiting to hear from BP about another grant that includes about $1.2 million for counseling. Peer-to-peer counseling programs, in which local residents are trained to reach out to other community members, have been launched. One mental health worker says people who were affected by Katrina have been “re-traumatized” by the oil spill.