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Holistic approach enhances community planning in rural Alaska

February 17, 2017

ANTHC’s work in promoting healthy homes and communities involves many aspects of public health infrastructure that support the health of our people. Our Environmental Health and Engineering work began with health prevention through access to water and sewer, and has evolved to understand the complete needs for community wellness.

This progress with our community partners has adapted over the years to include a new approach to project planning. ANTHC, along with funding and agency partners, is in development of a redefined community planning process for rural Alaska called the Holistic Approach to Sustainable Northern Communities.

Community engagement is the basis for the holistic approach. This concept begins at the grassroots level, with a traditional perspective, and brings together some of the important components of a healthy community: residents, culture and lifestyle, housing, energy, infrastructure that includes water and sewer, community health and wellness, and economic development.

This holistic approach is being utilized for two current ANTHC projects. The first is the planned relocation effort of Newtok residents to a selected site on Nelson Island, named Mertarvik. A phased approach between ANTHC, partners and community residents will continue until all residents are relocated. The planning process began with a community meeting and potluck where traditional foods were served and a Yup’ik dancing celebration to welcome the new team and kick off the project. Each visit to the community is followed by a strategic step to build the planning structure for the future.

The second is a pilot project in Oscarville to address community sustainability through engagement and interagency partnerships. This will begin the creation of a statewide community resiliency and training model at Cold Climate Housing Research Center, funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Resilience Program.

Additionally, the holistic model is being used to create strategic community plans for all communities that ANTHC serves.

For more information about current ANTHC Environmental Health and Engineering work, visit

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