SITKA - The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium is recognizing this week, April 19-25, as Community Health Aide, Community Health Practitioner, Dental Health Aide and Behavioral Health Aide Week.
"The Community Health Aides continue to be the backbone of health care in rural Alaska," said Steve Gage, PA-C, the Assistant Medical Director for the SEARHC Community Health Services division and the SEARHC Community Health Aide Program Director. "With the addition of the Dental Health Aides and soon-to-be Behavioral Health Aides, the program has expanded and adapted to meet additional health care needs."
The Community Health Aide Program was created in the 1950s by the Indian Health Service and first recognized in 1968 by the U.S. Congress. Since most of Alaska's small villages can not financially support a full-time physician in the community, selected village residents are given special training so they can provide basic medical services to their neighbors. There currently are about 600 community health aides and community health practitioners (CHAs with advanced training) work closely with physicians based at regional hospitals in the Alaska Tribal Health System.
A few years ago, the Dental Health Aide/Therapist program was created to provide basic dental services in Alaska villages, with dental health therapists providing more advanced services than dental health aides. A new statewide Behavioral Health Aide program is being developed and will be launched in the near future. Both the DHA/T and BHA programs are modeled after the successful CHA/P program.
For more information about Alaska's CHA/P program, go to www.akchap.org.