Building Healthier Communities Through Advocacy, Outreach, and Connection

Below is the full version of “Stories of Impact: Prevention and Public Health,” which is featured in our 2021 Community Impact Report. Click here to view the report and find links to all of our Stories of Impact.

“I don’t know how we can really thrive as a community without being healthy first,” says Sara Clark, VP of Public Health and Prevention at VOA Alaska. “It should always be a priority for resources and decision-making, because without healthy community members, it’ll be a challenge for us to meet any other priority.”

Community-led advocacy is essential for implementing policies and system changes to build healthy communities. The Anchorage Adolescent Substance Misuse Prevention Coalition, led by VOA Alaska, engages organizations, business, and community members to distribute resources, increase awareness, and advocate for policies to enhance prevention education and awareness for young Alaskans.

The Coalition also offers volunteer opportunities for youth. One young Alaskan had volunteered, as they say, just to make their parents happy.

During their time, they helped build overdose kits and learned about substance misuse and prevention practices.

Only days after volunteering, they contacted the prevention team to ask about more volunteer opportunities—except this time, it was because they wanted to! They’ve volunteered three additional times and have requested to be contacted whenever any opportunities arise.

Our Prevention team also offers an evidence-based prevention and intervention program called PRIME for Life. The caring and approachable nature of our staff means the class also provides additional opportunities for empowering young Alaskans through building relationships with trusted adults.

One student disclosed to the instructor that they were living in an unstable home environment. VOA staff collaborated, enrolled them our Outpatient program, and helped them move into a more stable living environment. All of this happened within ten days of the student engaging with VOA.

VOA Alaska helps build healthy communities by creating these opportunities for young Alaskans to learn, grow, and be empowered.


More from the Public Health and Prevention Team

In the Wellness During COVID podcast series, Lonnie Ridgeway, VOA Alaska Coalition Director, speaks with Alaskans about how their coping with COVID and learns from their expertise on how we can stay mentally, emotionally, and physically well during the ongoing pandemic.

  • Wellness During COVID – Episode 1
    Culture and COVID – Alaska Native artist and advocate Britt’Nee Kivliqtaruq Brower speaks on the role of culture, and shares some of the projects she’s been working on this year.
  • Wellness During COVID – Episode 2
    Take Care of Your Body – Holistic health and wellness coach Chris Bryant to learn how he’s coping with COVID, the importance of staying active for our physical and mental health, and tips for getting back in action.
  • Wellness During COVID – Episode 3
    Focus on the Facts – Jordan Kamer, Health Educator at the Anchorage Health Department, shares how to stay safe and healthy during the ongoing pandemic
  • Wellness During COVID – Episode 4
    Coping WITH Youth – Stefanie Goggins, Lead of Integrated Services at VOA Alaska shares tips on how to help your child cope through these challenging times, how to have meaningful conversations with them, and what signs to look for.
  • Wellness During COVID – Episode 5
    Chelsie Williams, Lead Mental Health Clinician at ARCH, offers encouragement for parents who my be seeing changes in their teens behavior and shares how VOA Alaska is helping Alaska’s youth struggling with substance misuse.

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