Sitka Health Summit chooses two community wellness projects for the next year

Starting a series of trauma-informed community conversations and reducing Sitka’s carbon emissions were the theme as Sitka residents gathered to choose two community wellness projects to pursue in 2017-18 at the 11th annual Sitka Health Summit, held Oct. 11-13, at the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus and Sitka Public Library. The Sitka Local Foods Network got its start through a couple of Sitka Health Summit projects.

This year, the summit featured Justin Rivas, MPH, MIPA, of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, who also works with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Rivas led a boundary-spanning leadership workshop on Wednesday morning to help leaders learn how to be more inclusive in their planning. He also gave a presentation on health equity on Wednesday night.

The Sitka Health Summit Planning Day was expanded to a day and a half this year, with Rivas facilitating. On Thursday afternoon, Rivas discussed health equity and also went over some of the Sitka and Alaska health information gathered from the RWJF County Health Rankings (http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/). He also discussed the site’s What Works For Health project (http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/policies) that lists hundreds of possible health projects and the evidence-based research that shows how they work. On Friday, about 30-40 Sitkans gathered to select the two community wellness projects to pursue for the next year.

“The Sitka Health Summit team was successful in using data and evidence to inform the goal-setting process at this year’s planning day,” Rivas said. “They also met the challenge of strategically incorporating health equity in the selection of the year’s goals.”

There were 33 initial projects proposed, in a variety of categories such as physical activity, nutrition (including two people suggesting a veggie prescriptions project), mental health, health equity, etc. They were narrowed down to five semifinalists, and two of those were combined to make it four semifinal projects. The two chosen projects each will receive $2,000 in seed money, as well as some facilitation services from the Sitka Health Summit advisory team, to help get the projects off the ground.

“The planners chose two important goals for this year,” Sitka Health Summit Coalition member Doug Osborne said. “The first group decided to have some critical conversations about our community’s past and present as well as the kind of future we want for all of our residents. Understanding our ‘history’ (including the painful parts that often don’t get discussed), becoming a trauma-informed community, and uniting to end racism are going to contribute to a healthier Sitka that’s built on a foundation of mutual respect.

“The second goal the planners chose was to help protect our ocean, forest, and quality of life by reducing carbon emissions and addressing climate change. As the planners brainstormed ways to reduce CO2 emissions (the main greenhouse gas) it was clear that the solutions had several layers of benefits, such as saving money, improving air quality, promoting fitness and more. I wish both of the groups the best of luck as they work to make our world and our town healthier, more sustainable, and more equitable.”

Each of the two chosen community wellness projects will host a kick-off event in the near future, and these events are open to the public and anybody who wants to help with the project. More information about the projects, their kick-off meetings, and contact people are listed below.

  • Reduce carbon emissions in Sitka — 6:30-8 p.m., Monday, Oct. 23, Harrigan Centennial Hall, contact Heather Bauscher, 747-7509, heather@sitkawild.org (NOTE: Second meeting is 6-7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 30, at the Island Institute offices across from Baranof Elementary School) — Sitkans have a direct self interest in healthy oceans, forests and quality of life. By being better stewards of our resources, we can save money while helping the environment, protect our quality of life, help the next generation, and create a livable world now and in the future. All are invited to discuss CO2 reduction, stewardship, and a sustainable Sitka. (Note: Growing local food can be a part of this project.)
  • Trauma-informed community conversations — 6-7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 9, Harrigan Centennial Hall, contact Loyd Platson, 747-3636, lplatson@scpsak.org (NOTE: This is a change from the time, date and location originally announced for this meeting) — This project’s goal is in bringing together partners interested in community healing and equity, fostering community healing and understanding through dialogue, increasing cross-cultural understanding and respect, and creating a forum where conversations can be brought together. We as a community recognize that historical trauma affects the well-being and health equity of our community. We are going to have continuing conversations surrounding these topics, and this will be a safe space to talk about these things and our shared experience.

The Sitka Health Summit is coordinated and funded by a coalition of local groups that includes the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Sitka Community Hospital, Sitka Conservation Society, Sitka Counseling, the State of Alaska Division of Public HealthSection of Public Health Nursing, the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, White’s Pharmacy, the Sitka Health Summit Coalition.

For more information about the Sitka Health Summit and its current and past projects, go to http://www.sitkahealthsummit.org/. Photos from the summit are posted on the Sitka Health Summit page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SitkaHealthSummit.

• Sitka Health Summit presents seed money check to Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka project

FOOD ASSESSMENT DOUGH: From left, Sitka Health Summit Steering Committee members Ellen Daly, Elisabeth Crane and Penny Lehmann present a check for project seed money to representatives from the Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka community wellness project, Renae Mathson (fourth from left), Sabrina Cimerol, Garrett Bauer and Courtney Bobsin.

FOOD ASSESSMENT DOUGH: From left, Sitka Health Summit Steering Committee members Ellen Daly, Elisabeth Crane and Penny Lehmann present a check for project seed money to representatives from the Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka community wellness project, Renae Mathson (fourth from left), Sabrina Cimerol, Garrett Bauer and Courtney Bobsin.

Representatives from the Sitka Health Summit recently presented a check for seed money to the Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka project. The project is one of three community wellness projects that came out of the 2012 Sitka Health Summit in October, and the food assessment will help Sitka improve its food security.

The food assessment will take various forms, from polling local grocery stores and shipping companies to try and gauge how much food comes into the community to developing a survey for community members and families about how much food they consume. The project will look at the food needs in our community, as well as what’s available. It also will include a survey about how much fish and game is used in Sitka, as well as how many people gather seaweed and berries or raise food in gardens.

The community food assessment recognizes that everybody in Sitka has access to affordable, quality food from stable food systems. The group meets on the second Wednesday each month, and the next meeting is from 5:30-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Sitka Sound Science Center.

For more information, contact Renae Mathson at 966-8797 or renae.mathson@searhc.org, or contact Andrianna Natsoulas at 747-3477 or anatsoulas@thealaskatrust.org. Sitka residents can ask to join the Google Groups e-mail list for the project to keep up to date with what’s happening.

• Sitka community food assessment project to hold kick-off meeting on Monday, Oct. 29

At the 2012 Sitka Health Summit, “Developing a Community Food Assessment for a Food Resilient Sitka” was selected as one of the top three goals for 2012-2013. All members of the public who are interested in this initiative are cordially invited to a kick-off gathering from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29, in Room 108 at the Rasmuson Building located on the Sheldon Jackson campus.

Are you concerned about where your food comes from and how it gets to Sitka? Have you ever wondered what happens if the barge doesn’t arrive? Are you worried about rising food prices and do you worry about the future of Sitka’s food needs? What percentage of Sitka’s food is locally harvested? Do you feel the fish and game food resources you harvest are adequately protected?

Those and other questions will be asked as part of the community food assessment. All members of Sitka’s community have a need for and a right to healthy, stable, affordable food. We are interested in finding community groups and individuals who can help us in the planning stages of this assessment.

Snacks and refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact Renae Mathson at 966-8797 or renae.mathson@searhc.org.

• Sitka residents pick three Sitka Health Summit wellness projects for 2012-13; including a community food assessment

Sitka residents gather for a group photo during the Sitka Health Summit planning day on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

Sitka residents gather for a group photo during the Sitka Health Summit planning day on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

Sitka residents want to revitalize the downtown core area, perform a community food assessment for food resiliency, and apply for a Walk Friendly Community award to show how walkable Sitka is as a community.

Those were the three community health priorities Sitka residents chose to work on this next year when they met during the Sitka Health Summit’s community planning meeting on Friday, Oct. 12, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus. Sitka residents chose these three projects out of dozens of brain-stormed ideas. Each project will receive assistance with facilitation and $750 of seed money from the summit’s Health Initiatives Fund to start working on meeting the health goals.

The groups working on each project are setting up their first meetings and getting their contact lists together, and Sitka residents who want to participate are welcome to contact the interim group leaders (through the group’s first meetings, group leaders may change after the first meetings) listed below to find out more information.

  • Sitka downtown revitalization project, Angela McGraw, 747-1737, angelam@sitkahospital.org, first meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.
  • Sitka community food assessment, Renae Mathson, 966-8797, renae.mathson@searhc.org, first meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29, in Room 108 at Rasmuson Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.
  • Walk Friendly Community, Charles Bingham, 738-8875, charleswbingham3@gmail.com, first meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at Swan Lake Senior Center.
Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell speaks to Sitka residents at the Sitka Health Summit planning day on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell speaks to Sitka residents at the Sitka Health Summit planning day on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at Sweetland Hall on the Sheldon Jackson Campus.

The sixth annual Sitka Health Summit took place on Saturday, Oct. 6; Monday, Oct. 8; Wednesday, Oct. 10; and Friday, Oct. 12, at various locations around Sitka. In addition to Friday’s community planning meeting, the Sitka Health Summit opened the Sitka Community Health Fair and Neighborhood Block Party on Saturday at Sweetland Hall. It also featured a lunch-and-learn on Monday at Kettleson Memorial Library where Don Lehmann, MD, discussed “Exercise as Medicine;” and it featured the Sitka Health Summit Community Wellness Champion Awards Celebration on Wednesday night at the Sheet’ká Kwáan Naa Kahidi.

The Sitka Health Summit is brought to you by Sitka Community Hospital, the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Alaska Communications and the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus. Additional financial help and in-kind donations were provided by the City and Borough of Sitka, Guardian Flight Inc., Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, Scott Insurance Services, Shee Atiká Inc., AC Value Center/Lakeside, Sitka Vision Clinic, Wells Fargo, White’s Inc. (Harry Race Pharmacy, White’s Pharmacy, Seasons), Spenard Builders Supply, Don and Penny Lehmann, Alaska Health Fair Inc., and the State of Alaska Division of Public Health Nursing. The Sitka Health Summit’s vision is “to serve our great state as a model for community wellness by creating a healthy community where all Sitkans strive for and enjoy a high quality of life.”

For more information about the Sitka Health Summit, call Doug Osborne at 966-8734 or Alyssa Sexton at 747-0388, or go to our website at http://www.sitkahealthsummit.com/.