Interior communities share importance of public health facilities with Indian Health ServiceJune 16, 2017
Categories: Healthy Homes and Communities
Providing sustainable public health infrastructure for our Alaska Native communities, such as water and sanitation services, requires partnership across many organizations. ANTHC works with our Tribal health partners, communities, government representatives and project partners to introduce the challenges and opportunities of rural sanitation construction that can have profound impacts on the health of our people. Recently, Rear Admiral Chris Buchanan, Acting Director of the Indian Health Service (IHS), traveled to the Interior Alaska communities of Allakaket and Rampart to participate in local meetings and observe the unique challenges related to delivering services in the remote Arctic regions. The trip was arranged by Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) and attended by several its staff, including TCC President Victor Joseph. The first stop was Allakaket, where the group listened to concerns of community members and representatives who told stories of life without basic sanitation services and the adverse effects on health as a result. Tribal representatives from the villages of Evansville, Huslia, Hughes and Alatna also participated in the meeting in support of Allakaket’s effort to obtain water and sewer services. The group toured the community and met residents of two homes without running water. David Beveridge, ANTHC Environmental Health and Engineering Project Management Director, said that these homes, as well as a third, will be provided in-home sanitation facilities under an ANTHC pilot project being carried out in collaboration with TCC. The systems will be similar to the innovative facilities provided to numerous homes in Kivalina. Rampart also hosted a community meeting to share their concerns. Homes in Rampart also lack basic water and sewer services and the community expressed interest in trying innovative ideas to provide service because a piped system would not be financially viable to operate. The community has gone through tremendous population growth over the past couple of years and will be building new housing. Last year, the school opened up for the first time in more than 10 years and the community celebrated the graduation of a high school senior as well as several elementary and kindergarten students’ advancements to their next grades. Rampart will continue to grow and it was clear that sanitation is a key basic necessity for a strong, healthy community. “Discussions with village leaders and village residents with regard to sanitation needs affirms IHS’ recent decision to fund installation of Portable Alternative Sanitation System (PASS) units in selected village homes as part of an ANTHC pilot study to determine if PASS units may be acceptable by the communities for village-wide installation,” said CAPT Denman Ondelacy the Alaska Area I.H.S. Director of Environmental Health and Engineering. Community visits keep ANTHC connected to our statewide partners and help illustrate the rural health challenges for national partners such as the Indian Health Service. For more information about ANTHC‘s clean water and sanitation work, visit https://anthc.org/clean-water-and-sanitation/.