Elise Patkotak: Alaska Native villages search for local solutions

"When the Community Health Aide program was first conceived in the Fifties, it had a very limited scope -- the TB epidemic. Eventually, the program was expanded and the village CHA became a critical provider of health care in remote villages.

More recently, the Native health care community took a look at the CHA program and thought it might provide the template for a program to help combat the horror that is dental health in Bush Alaska. So a dental health aide program was created that trained local residents to provide basic care and prevention in remote Native villages.

This program caused more than a little consternation amongst dental professionals in the state. Their claimed concern was the quality of care these paraprofessionals would provide and whether they might do more harm than good. Some outside the profession thought perhaps financial concerns were the dental association's main focus, but I prefer to believe dentists truly were worried about the quality of care to be provided.

Since its inception, all indications are that the program is a success. It is improving dental care in small villages and seemingly not creating an entirely new set of oral health care problems due to incompetent care."

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Elise Patkotak: Bush animals need us to work together (The Anchorage Daily News 6/13)

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