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Prince of Wales Health Network

  • Need: To increase collaboration between healthcare facilities and other organizations on a rural Alaska island in order to provide better access to and quality of healthcare.
  • Intervention: A health network focused on collaboration in order to best meet healthcare needs of island residents.
  • Results: Increased collaboration and cooperation among healthcare facilities and other organizations, leading to enhanced healthcare services for island residents while eliminating unneeded duplication of services and filling in service gaps.

Prince of Wales Island, located off the southern tip of Alaska, is a Medically Underserved Area and a Health Professional Shortage Area. This island boasts a population of only 4,200 residents who are spread out over 2,500 square miles. With no commercial airline service, travel on and off the island is time-consuming, expensive, and dependent on weather. This means most healthcare services must be accessed on the island.

In the 2000s, healthcare providers started exploring how they could better serve their patients through collaboration rather than competition. Thus, the Prince of Wales (POW) Health Network was formed in 2007. Quarterly face-to-face meetings are at the heart of developing strong relationships founded in trust, collaboration, and accountability.

The POW Health Network, whose fiscal agency is PeaceHealth, is a collaboration among the following:

  • Regional health consortium
  • Two medical centers
  • State public health center
  • Community services organization
  • Pharmacy
  • Dental center

The mission of the POW Health Network is to build a strong and sustainable network that will aid in strengthening the healthcare system on the island and increase access to and quality of healthcare for all island residents. There are many community stakeholders who hold a strong interest in participating in network activities. The network works to include these stakeholders, respect members' needs, and create strong community engagement, all while focusing on its original mission.

Network initiatives for 2014-2017:

  • Conduct “Community Listening Sessions”
  • Increase the use of health information technology
  • Integrate a “Healthy Lifestyle Screening Tool” and “Behavioral Health Screening Tool” into behavioral health and primary care patient visits
  • Achieve and maintain effective vaccination coverage levels for young children
  • Provide increased access to flu vaccines regardless of insurance coverage
  • Develop and implement a public awareness campaign, focusing on healthy eating and traditional native foods
  • Increase the number of schools that offer nutritious foods and beverages
  • Increase the proportion of primary care providers who regularly measure the body mass index of children or youth
  • Work to decrease screen time for children to under two hours per day
  • Complete the development of all parts of the POW Health Network: organization structure, policies and procedures, legal and financial

The network was initially funded with a 2008-2011 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Rural Health Network Development grant. The network then received a subsequent 2011-2014 FORHP Rural Health Network Development grant as well as a 2014-2017 FORHP Rural Health Network Development grant. The network was also the recipient of a 4-year $900,000 State of Alaska Behavioral Health grant beginning July 2014.

As part of the network’s sustainability plan, a fund was set up in 2014 within the Alaska Community Foundation with member organizations required to give annually to the fund. Individuals, businesses, corporations, and others are encouraged to donate in order to meet local fundraising goals. This funding is required for grant matches. If no grants are received in the future, then the funding goes toward the sustainability of the network.

Services offered
  • Leadership in healthcare on POW Island
  • Catalyst for supporting health infrastructure on the island
  • Facilitation of communication and sharing of information among healthcare stakeholders
  • Leveraging of members’ collective influence to improve the access to and quality of healthcare services
  • Annual update of Health and Youth Guide

In addition, the POW Health Network provides activities, including:

  • Annual health fair
  • Annual POW marathon
  • Coffman Festival (an arts and seafood festival)
  • Culture Camp (a camp to teach traditions and customs of Haida people)
  • Suicide prevention training
  • Support for veterans services
  • Support of POW Wellness Coalition
  • Continuing education for emergency responders
  • Developed a strategic plan including evaluation tools and fund development
  • Provided increased support and communication for local EMS providers
  • Secured funding through the State of Alaska Division of Behavioral Health to provide comprehensive needs assessment and planning for mental health and substance abuse services on Prince of Wales
  • Offered continuing medical education activities and community education
  • Addressed employee recruitment and retention issues
  • Expanded elder care services for island residents
  • Provided support for veterans services
  • Increased communication among network members
  • Launched a fund to secure future funding for the network
  • Lack of bandwidth for connectivity in many areas on the island, inhibiting the growth of infrastructures for technology
  • Limited internet, cell phone, and landline connectivity, leading to communication challenges
  • Difficulty in keeping villages, tribal councils, school board, and other government agencies apprised of the network’s work
  • With representation from all member organizations, frequent face-to-face meetings are necessary for the development of trust, collaboration, and accountability. It is the engine that ensures the initiatives move forward successfully.
  • In order for a collaboration to be successful, there needs to be a desire for and an openness to addressing issues that have the potential of becoming major obstacles.
  • Setting the contentious issues aside and focusing on areas where there is a clear willingness for collaboration has been important.
  • Flexibility, creativity, accountability, and strong leadership are necessary for continuing collaboration beyond initial grant funding.
Contact Information
Gretchen Klein, Network Director
Prince of Wales Health Network
American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians
Behavioral health
Healthcare networks
Primary care
States served
Date added
May 30, 2010
Date updated or reviewed
July 11, 2017

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.