5 Things Alaska: Primaries to watch, Topical Agenda, State health improvement plan

Sometimes, it makes sense to pause and take in all of the stress around us. School is starting back up. Over a billion dollars is getting spent to tell Americans why we should vote against this person or that issue. The pandemic continues with no end in sight. The economy is hollowing out in meaningful but unreported ways (like this spike in mortgage delinquencies nationwide). And, it’s getting darker every day faster than one would like.

I’m not telling you all of this to depress you. I’m saying this for two reasons. One, we need to name the stress in our life to try to better manage them. Things are hard right now, and it’s ok to struggle with this stuff.

Second, this is in significant part why we created State of Reform a decade ago. The solutions to our problems lie in more conversations, not fewer; in more engagement with our community, not less. It’s appropriate to fight elections and call division for votes on policy. But, America is great because of our ability to come together around a set of ideas, more centrally ‘Out of many, one.’

So, hang in there. Don’t hesitate to ask for support. And, if I can help in a way that’s meaningful to you, send me a note. We’ll see what we can do.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Primary races to watch

Two statewide offices, 11 Senate seats, and all 40 House seats are on the ballot for Alaska’s August 18th primary. We’ve put together a rundown of the races we’ll be watching, particularly among those featuring incumbents who have a hand in shaping Alaska’s health policy.

Four of the five members of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee are up for re-election – including in District N where Senate President Cathy Giessel is facing off against Republican challenger Roger Holland. In District D, Sen. David Wilson is facing a crowded primary with 5 other Republicans on the ballot. Over in the House, nearly all members of the Health and Social Services Committee are running unopposed in their primaries, except Rep. Sharon Jackson who was appointed by Gov. Dunleavy and was sworn into office in January of 2019.


2. Our Topical Agenda is now available!

We are excited to announce the release of our Topical Agenda for the 2020 Alaska State of Reform Virtual Health Policy Conference on September 30th! Our agenda is built with input from stakeholders across all silos in the Alaska health care system. We’ll be exploring politics and policy in health care, discussing the future of Medicaid, and diving deep into COVID’s impact on the economy, tele-health, and health equity.

You can view the Topical Agenda here for a sense of the conversations we have teed up, and if you have suggestions for speakers let us know! If you haven’t already registered, we’d be honored to have you join us!

3. SHIP open for public comment

DHSS and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium are seeking public comment on the new draft state health improvement plan (SHIP). The draft plan, Healthy Alaskans 2030, features 15 priority health topics, 30 health objectives, and target goals for each objective to be reached by 2030.

The priority heath topics cover a range of issues including health care access, mental health, environmental health, social determinants of health, and violence prevention. Each objective also includes evidence-based strategies, specific actions, target measures, time frames, and key partners to look to as the state moves to achieve each goal. The plan is open for public comment until Sept. 2, 2020, at 5pm on the State of Alaska Public Notice website.


4. Video: Nikole Nelson

Nikole Nelson is the Executive Director of the Alaska Legal Services Corporation, which offers free civil legal services to low-income Alaskans. She joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss building partnerships to address the social determinants of health. These remarks were recorded before the COVID-19 outbreak during our previous convening.

“We’ve been building a network of medical-legal partnerships within the tribaly-operated healthcare system. And in conjunction with our partners at the tribal healthcare system, we have been embedding legal aid lawyers from Alaska Legal Services into the healthcare system to address the health-harming legal needs of patients. And that ranges from things like domestic violence, or homelessness, or housing, or helping people access the public benefits that they’ve earned…”


5. New data on health disparities

Pacific Islanders and Native Alaskans are experiencing disproportionately higher positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Alaska, according to the latest data from the state. Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (NHOPI) individuals make up just 1% of Alaska’s population but account for 4% of the state’s COVID cases, said Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink, MD, in a recent press conference. By comparison, white individuals make up about 66% of Alaska’s population, but account for only 27% of the state’s cases – a 39% difference.

Disparities are also seen in Alaska’s hospitalization rates where statewide, approximately 4% of all people who tested positive for COVID ended up needing to be hospitalized. For Pacific Islanders, however, approximately 20% of cases resulted in hospitalizations. Next on the list, 15% of cases among Asian individuals resulted in hospitalization, followed by 14% of Alaska Native cases.