SEARHC to fund health care efforts

Grants to help fight against diabetes, obesity

Posted: Thursday, July 05, 2007

A new batch of health care grants are expected to foster the next phase in the fight against diabetes and obesity in Southeast Alaska.

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This month the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium's Steps to a Healthier SE Alaska program awarded $85,000 to 14 community-based programs throughout the region.

The grant money provides swimming programs in Haines, education for Native women in traditional food and exercise regiments, construction of a community garden in Craig to provide fresh food, and outdoor programs in Juneau.

"This all goes to help Southeast Alaskans live longer, healthier and happy lives," said Gretchen Clarke, SEARHC community coordinator.

The money comes from a larger national Health and Human Services program.

For years, climbing diabetes rates triggered programs to educate people in Southeast Alaska. Prior to the new grants, public heath programs focused on teaching people to eat the right foods and exercise to combat the epidemic.

"It was left to the individual to act," Clarke said.

Now whole communities can act together, she said.

The new programs differ from old ones by seeding programs that are expected to become a permanent part of the community.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for nearly 95 percent of all diagnosed cases. It's preventable with a healthy well-rounded diet and exercise.

Camp 4 of the Alaska Native Sisterhood of Sitka won a $10,000 grant to, in part, teach exercise trainers, who will then work with their communities and provide a longer lasting effect.

"The trainees become trainers themselves," Clarke said.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Juneau has a new $4,000 program offering a variety of outdoor activities for their kids.

"We hope to get them off the couch and into the natural world," said Marc Wheeler, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Their goal is simple, a chance for kids to see that being healthy is actually fun.

All 14 programs will finalize plans throughout August and are scheduled to provide their various services in September, Clarke said.

• Greg Skinner can be reached at 523-2258 or

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