Community Health Aide and Practitioners in Alaska Use Lessons from HPP-Funded Emergency Management Course during COVID-19 Response
In Alaska, each Tribal community is staffed by Community Health Aides and Practitioners (CHA/P) who are on the front lines of health care delivery in their communities. They provide emergent, acute, and chronic care to residents of their respective communities. The Alaska Tribal Health System (ATHS) is a voluntary affiliation of tribes and tribal organizations that provides health services to Alaska Native and American Indian people. The ATHS consists of seven hospitals, 25 sub-regional advanced practice clinics, 17 tribal health organizations, and 180 small rural health clinics where CHA/Ps provide primary care.
Training for CHA/Ps is supported by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC). ANTHC is a statewide non-profit tribal health organization designed to meet the unique health needs of Alaska Native and American Indian people living in Alaska. ANTHC’s services include comprehensive medical services at the Alaska Native Medical Center, wellness programs, disease research and prevention, rural provider training, and rural water and sanitation systems construction.
The geographic distribution of over 550 CHA/Ps across the state made it difficult for these individuals to attend training and tabletop exercises at the state emergency operations center. CHA/Ps expressed a desire for additional training on incident response processes, including information on their role in the Incident Command System (ICS).
To reach more practitioners across the state, ANTHC used HHS ASPR Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) and CDC Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement funds to create a specialized online course to train CHA/Ps on requesting assistance and better understanding their roles and responsibilities during a disaster response. ANTHC developed an all-virtual, interactive course with the support of subject matter experts and a technical representative.
To date, more than 80 CHA/Ps have taken the course and provided feedback stating it helped them better understand their roles during an incident or event. The training included realistic scenarios tailored to Alaska, ensuring participants received specific response training for their regions and unique emergencies they faced.
The training has given CHA/Ps the tools to understand where they fit within the ICS and has taught them how to leverage their response partners as resources. By offering a virtual course, ANTHC was able to expand its reach of CHA/Ps, ensuring more tribal communities across the state would receive well informed care and emergency response.
Now, ANTHC is exploring how virtual trainings can be used in other areas of preparedness and response. Newly assigned emergency managers who staff critical access hospitals could benefit from virtual training as well and could continue to bridge the gaps between the 180 small rural health clinics across the state. Ultimately, HPP funding enabled the creation and implementation of these virtual trainings; significantly broadening the ANTHC’s reach and providing specialized training to communities across the state.