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Palliative Care team wins IHS Directors Team Award for creating Advance Care Planning resources tailored for Alaska Native people

June 11, 2018

In just two years, the ANTHC Palliative Care Program has taken many steps to ensure that our Alaska Native people have access to resources in order to receive the care they choose. For their efforts, the program has been honored with the Indian Health Service Director’s Award for extending Advance Care Planning resources to the Alaska Tribal Health System.

According to IHS, the award “recognizes service significantly advancing the IHS mission and goals through work focused on IHS priorities: People, Partnerships, Quality, and Resources, with particular emphasis on quality improvement activities.”

Advance Care Planning is a process in which patients make decisions about their future health care wishes in consultation with clinicians, family and others who are important in their care. Launched in 2015, the ANTHC Palliative Care Program quickly identified the need for culturally tailored Advance Care Planning materials and tools for our Alaska Native people.

The ANTHC Palliative Care team partnered with ANTHC Marketing and Southcentral Foundation (SCF) Public Relations to create Advance Care Planning resources specifically for Alaska Native and American Indian people. The materials, including the “Your Care, Your Choices” Conversation Guide, utilizes storytelling and vivid imagery to explain Advance Care Planning. The Conversation Guide also serves as scripting for providers as they begin talking with patients about Advance Care Planning. Focus groups reviewed the resources – along with the Voice Your Choices marketing campaign – and the material was piloted in partnership with SCF at the Alaska Native Primary Care Center.

The ANTHC Palliative Care team also partnered with SCF to create online trainings for all Alaska Native Medical Center health care staff on the resources and communication skills needed for Advance Care Planning conversations. In addition, these trainings informed providers on ways to locate and document Advance Care Planning conversations and forms in a patient’s electronic health record.

“Through these outreach efforts, individuals are encouraged to start Advance Care Planning conversations with their health care providers,” said Dr. Christopher Piromalli, ANTHC Palliative Care Medical Director. “The phenomenal efforts and leadership put forth by ANTHC and SCF have elevated the quality of care provided to Alaska Native and American Indian people, allowing patients to receive individualized and culturally appropriate care.”

ANTHC Palliative Care was honored at the IHS Director’s Awards Ceremony on Friday, June 1 at the IHS Headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.

The resources were completed in 2017 and are available throughout the Alaska Native Health Campus in Anchorage and the Alaska Tribal Health System. The resources have been requested both nationally and internationally from American Indian and Aboriginal Canadian partners. They are available online at

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