Mayor Bruce Botelho, left, applauds as Max Blust, right accepts an award and recognition for his contribution toward wellness among youths in Juneau. Blust has excelled as a swimmer despite a heart condition that makes the sport more difficult for him than for most youths.
Many health providers and concerned citizens were in attendance at the first annual Health Summit dinner last Thursday at the Tlingit-Haida Community Center.
Story last updated at 4/29/2009 - 10:44 am
JUNEAU - Last week, Alaska's capital city embarked on the first ever Juneau Health Summit. The summit's vision is to work together as a community to develop realistic solutions for health and wellness in Juneau.
The summit's goals were to build new bridges in the community for wellness, honor groups and individuals for their work toward health, provide a unifying health message around wellness, and make realistic plans toward the vision.
The guest speaker, Dr. America Bracho, is originally from Venezuela and now serves as the executive director of Latino Health Access, a center for health promotion and disease prevention in Santa Ana, Ca. The center facilitates mechanisms of empowerment for the Latino community and uses participatory approaches to community health education.
Bracho presented her work in Santa Ana as an example of how Juneau can make changes to become a healthier community.
"I didn't come here to teach you anything," Bracho said. "I am just another person on this planet trying to work with my community that is suffering a lot."
Bracho engaged the crowd at the community dinner on Thursday night, inviting audience members to share their concerns for the health of Juneau's community. A diverse range of people responded, voicing their concerns on topics such as teen drug abuse, obesity and a lack of general wellness.
Bracho urged the dinner's attendees to begin the discussion about what can be done immediately to impact the health of Juneau's community.
"When are we going to talk about it?" Bracho said. "Right now, because then it will be too late. Then you will see other things and other issues ... to the point that you will not want to live here, and that will be a shame because this is a beautiful place."
Bracho involves a large number of children and young adults at her facility in Santa Ana. She said that for true change to happen in a community, the youth need to be engaged, not just the adults.
Mayor Bruce Botelho presented a number of awards at the dinner to members of the community who have acted as role models and wellness champions.
In the category of behavioral health, Pat Dobbins of the National Alliance on Mental Illness was recognized for her contribution to the mental health of the community.
In the nutrition category, Cecelia Friberg-Rodriquez as well as the nursing staff at Bartlett Beginnings were recognized for their leadership abilities, creativity, optimistic attitude and the expressed desire to make a positive difference in the nutritional habits and practices of people in the community.
In the category of physical activity, Corey Pavitt of Pavitt Health and Fitness, the 4H Nordic Ski Club and the Juneau Nordic Ski Club were recognized for demonstrating significant contributions to the promotion and accomplishment of healthy physical activities in the community.
In the youth category, Max Blust, who has excelled athletically in spite of his heart disease, and Shelby Tersteeg, a Juneau-Douglas High School student, were recognized for their contributions to health and wellness among youths in the community.
In the general wellness category, Tlingit Elder, author and artist Marie Olson and the Alaska Brewing Company were recognized for exemplifying personal health, wellness and healthy living habits in a way that is highly visible in the community.
In the Yaakw Yasatáni category, Andrea Ebona-Michel was recognized for exemplifying the spirit of health and wellness by serving as both a champion and a personal role model. Traditionally the captain and caller of the Tlingit canoe, this person brings together the distinct efforts of many and unites them for a common purpose.
The Juneau Health Summit is sponsored by the partnership of the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), Alaska Division of Public Health, Bartlett Regional Hospital, the SEARHC Steps to a Healthier Southeast Alaska program, Coast Alaska Public Radio, Southeast Public Health Nursing, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, Cooperative Extension Service UAF, United Way of Southeast Alaska, National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 2.