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J Palliat Med. 2003 Jun;6(3):501-10.

Establishing a culturally sensitive palliative care program in rural Alaska Native American communities.

Author information

1
Helping Hands Program, Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation, Dillingham, Alaska, USA. cadecourtney@yahoo.com

Abstract

End-of-life programs that provide an option for patients to die at home are available in most U.S. communities. However, Alaska Natives living in remote Alaska villages often die alone in hospitals and nursing homes hundreds of miles away from home. The Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation (BBAHC), a tribal organization, is the sole provider of comprehensive primary care services to 34 Alaska Native villages located within a 46,000 square mile area in southwest Alaska. The closest tertiary care hospital is 329 air miles away in Anchorage. Because of the high cost of, and difficulties encountered in trying to deliver end-of-life care services to remote communities, a village-focused, culturally sensitive, volunteer and primary care program combined with a regionally based physician and home health nurse to deliver multi-disciplinary palliative care was developed. The Helping Hands Program blends cultural practices with contemporary palliative care medicine to allow Alaska Natives and others living in remote communities to be cared for at home through the end of life. Since the program was implemented in 1999, the percentage of home deaths for selected causes has changed from 33% in 1997 to 77% in 2001. The Anchorage-based Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) and the Alaska Native Medical Center (ANMC) have recognized the importance and success of the BBAHC program and are investigating expanding the program to other parts of Alaska. Centralizing the program in Anchorage will allow staff trained in palliative care to travel to regional Alaska Native hospitals to help train health care professionals.

PMID:
14509499
DOI:
10.1089/109662103322144871
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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