#5 Top Story of 2018: 50 years of Community Health AidesDecember 28, 2018
This story was one of ANTHC’s top news items in 2018. The original story was published in the April-June 2018 issue of the Mukluk Telegraph. Read it and others online by clicking here.
This year, the Community Health Aide Program turns 50!
Alaska Community Health Aides and Practitioners (CHA/Ps) are the frontline of health care in their communities. For many people living in rural areas, CHA/Ps are providing the preventative care that is helping to improve the health of all Alaska Native people.
Establishing the Community Health Aide Program
The Community Health Aide Program (CHAP) was developed in the 1960s in response to a number of health concerns across the state, including: the tuberculosis epidemic, high infant mortality and high rates of injury in rural Alaska. In 1968, CHAP received formal recognition and congressional funding. The long history of cooperation and coordination between federal and state governments as well as Tribal health organizations has made access to care closer to home a reality for more people in Alaska.
CHAP now consists of a network of approximately 550 Community Health Aides/Practitioners (CHA/Ps) in more than 170 rural Alaska communities. CHA/Ps work within the health care guidelines of their training and care manual, the Alaska Community Health Aide/Practitioner Manual (CHAM), which standardizes the high level of care provided by each CHA/P and outlines assessment and treatment protocols.
The rural community-based CHA/Ps are a vital link in the care delivery system across Alaska. CHA/Ps are the primary care provider in an established referral relationship, which includes advanced practice providers, physicians, regional hospitals and the Alaska Native Medical Center. In addition, providers such as public health nurses, physicians and dentists make visits to villages to see patients in collaboration with the CHA/Ps.
CHA/P training for the highest-quality care
Community Health Aides are selected by their communities to receive training and provide care for the people in the place where they live. There are four sessions of CHA training, each lasting three to four weeks. Training centers are located in Anchorage, Bethel, Nome and Fairbanks. Between sessions, CHAs work in their clinics completing a skills list and practicum. After successfully completing the four-session training curriculum and examination, the CHA qualifies as a Community Health Practitioner (CHP). CHA/Ps at any level of training may obtain certification by the Community Health Aide Program Certification Board. ANTHC is pleased to support the Community Health Aide Training Program and prepare CHA/Ps for their vital role in the Tribal health system.
Impact of the Community Health Aide Program
Since CHAP was established, ANTHC has helped expand the Community Health Provider system to ensure whole-person health. In 2001, we established the Dental Health Aide Program – the first of its kind in the country – and in 2008, we responded to growing community need with the Behavioral Health Aide Program.
The continued evolution and specialization of these three programs under ANTHC’s Tribal Community Health Provider Program has been a core priority of our Consortium’s work over the past decade. Today, we are proud to have more than 700 Community Health Providers actively working across the state to bring tailored care to Alaska Native people. While Alaska is just beginning to recognize the full impact of our community health, dental, and behavioral health programs, we know that our Community Health Providers are ready to meet the opportunities and challenges before us for the next 50 years and beyond.
Community Health Aide Program (CHAP) overview
- Formal program established in 1968 in response to health concerns in rural Alaska
- Community Health Aides and Practitioners (CHA/Ps) provide primary care for rural communities across Alaska
- Today, the network consists of approximately 550 CHA/Ps in more than 170 rural Alaska villages, with more than 250,000 patient visits annually
- CHA/Ps receive up-to-date initial and ongoing training to provide high-quality health care
- More than 90 percent of CHA/Ps are certified by the federally authorized Community Health Aide Program Certification Board
For more information about the Community Health Aide Program, visit www.akchap.org.