PUBLISHED: 11:29 AM on Wednesday, June 18, 2008
SEARHC, UAS-Sitka offer community wellness training
SITKA - Most people know they need to eat healthier food and get more physical activity each day, but they don't know where to start. A Community Wellness Advocate (CWA) can help people make these healthy lifestyle changes.

The award-winning Community Wellness Advocate training program is recruiting for fall classes, and new students need to schedule an interview by Aug. 5 to reserve a spot in the program. The CWA training program is a cooperative effort between the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) and the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus. Classes are taught using distance delivery, which allows students to stay in their home communities for all but two one-week periods a year, when they go to Sitka for hands-on training.

photo courtesy of Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC)
  Community Wellness Advocate training program students pose for a photo after receiving their CWA certificates at the May graduation ceremony for the University of Alaska Southeast-Sitka Campus. From left are Walleen Whitson of Sitka, Jeannette Chavez of Sitka, June May of Craig, CWA training program director Lisa Sadleir-Hart of Sitka, Kim Aspelund of Anchorage, Georgie Reese of Kake and Brenda Isaacs (Blackburn) of Klawock. Also earning CWA certificates in May but not able to attend the Sitka ceremony were Deborah Michael of Bethel and Helen Gregorio of Togiak. The CWA training program is a partnership between the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium and UAS-Sitka Campus.
"There is a huge need in this state for health education, health promotion and public health," said Lisa Sadleir-Hart, a SEARHC Health Educator who coordinates the CWA training program. "We have skyrocketing rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The rates of chronic disease are climbing and it's all based on lifestyle choices. The CWA program is about what do we do in our communities so people make healthier choices."

Starting this year, students who complete the 12-credit core track can earn an occupational endorsement. To earn a 30-credit CWA certificate, students complete the 12-credit core track, one of two specialty tracks - injury prevention is taught this year and nutrition next year - and other general classes. The CWA classes can beused as part of the requirements to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in health services from UAS-Sitka Campus. Federal financial aid is available for students in the 30-credit program, and there may be travel resources for Alaska Native students. Some tribes, Native corporations, regional tribal health organizations and other groups will help students pay for classes and travel fees, and they may offer jobs after graduation.

"It's an opportunity to make good things happen for friends and family in your community," said June May, who works as a CWA for SEARHC in Craig and Klawock. "If it is you home, you know what people need, you know what they like and you know how to get them involved. Being a part of community events like wellness fairs, a community garden, interacting with young people in the schools or learning from elders as they share about putting up food - I can't count the number of times I have marveled at my job! The education and experience that I have gained is more than I ever dreamed it would be."

"Since our first meeting at residency to graduation, everything we learned I am using," said Kim Aspelund, a CWA for Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage, where she teaches elders nutrition, diabetes prevention, tobacco cessation and exercise classes. "The best thing I love about my job is that we are given the freedom to be creative to teach. I love my job and recommend this CWA program to anyone who is interested in promoting health and wellness."

For more information or to interview for a spot in the program, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart by Tuesday, Aug. 5, at (907) 966-8735 or Space is limited. To learn more about the program, go to, and to get an application, go to