Sitka Health Summit wraps up with 2008-2009 goals

Posted: Friday, May 23, 2008

SITKA - Residents of Sitka learned about creating a healthier community, celebrated several local wellness champions and picked five health and wellness priorities for 2008-'09 during the second annual Sitka Health Summit held May 14-16.

The Sitka Health Summit is an annual event that brings together community members and health leaders with the vision for Sitka "to serve our great state as a model for community wellness by creating a healthy community where Sitkans strive for and enjoy a high quality of life." The event is sponsored by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, Sitka Community Hospital and the SEARHC Steps to a Healthier Southeast Alaska program.

This year's keynote speaker was Dan Burden, the founder and executive director of Walkable Communities Inc. Burden delivered the keynote address during the Sitka Health Summit's community dinner on May 14 and spoke with the Sitka Chamber of Commerce about employee wellness. He did a walkability study of Sitka, helping facilitate the "Community Planning Session: Next Steps" meeting on May 15, also speaking with city and state officials on May 16 about how to implement community health priorities.

The meeting on May 15 gave Sitka residents a chance to get together and determine their priorities for the upcoming year. Participants were split into five small groups to brainstorm ideas and then brought a ranked list back to the full group. The full group then voted on its top five projects to be Sitka Health Summit priorities for the next year.

Sitka's top five wellness priorities for 2008-'09, their lead contact people and first meetings are as follows:

Amelia Mosher ( will lead a project concerning a market for local foods, such as fish and produce, and for local arts and crafts. This project will look at creating a community market where local food producers can sell their goods, such as freshly caught fish and locally grown produce to Sitka residents and visitors. Their first meeting will be at noon today at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Jeannette Chavez (at 907-966-8916 or will lead a project regarding the community greenhouse providing food security for all. This project will develop a community greenhouse to grow fruits and vegetables so all Sitka residents have easier access to healthy foods. One of the models for this project is the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens in Wyoming, Their first meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, June 9, at Harrigan Centennial Hall.

Doug Osborne (at 907-966-8734 or will lead a project to provide a vibrant community centers with greenspaces and discovery places for kids. This project will look at several areas around town to explore simple design changes and enhancements that will make them attractive community destination points for residents and visitors of all ages. Their first meeting will be at noon Tuesday, June 3, at Harrigan Centennial Hall (as part of the city's Tree and Landscape Committee meeting).

John Stein (at 907-747-7811 or will lead a project to support the Hames Athletic and Wellness Center as a community health and wellness facility. This project will continue the work started during 2007-08, when creating a community health and wellness facility was one of the four goals from the first Sitka Health Summit. Their latest meeting was Thursday.

Deborah Lyons (at 907-747-7244 or will lead a project concerning a Pedestrian Friendly Walkability Analysis of Sitka's streets, sidewalks and trails. This project will look for barriers to walking around town, such as snow removal, way-finding, power poles in sidewalks, covered benches for elders, bad curbs that make travel difficult for people in wheelchairs, poor linkages between neighborhoods, etc. Their first meeting will be at noon Thursday, June 19, at City Hall, third-floor conference room.

Other projects that didn't make the top five list still may see action this year, and information about those projects is available at For example, the Sitka Employee Wellness Coalition plans to work on five projects relating to employee wellness that didn't make the full group's top five.

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