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Alaska Health Workforce Coalition

Summary 
  • Need: To ensure a well-qualified and sustainable Alaskan workforce to meet the current and future health care needs of its residents.
  • Intervention: Establishment of the Alaska Health Workforce Coalition (AHWC), a public-private partnership to develop, facilitate, implement, and support a statewide health workforce system.
  • Results: Coalition efforts impacted multiple state policies and programs, included a loan repayment and incentives program, and completed a health vacancy study in order to expand and further develop health-related education programs.

Description

Alaska faces ongoing workforce challenges related to the state's large geographic size and relatively small population. The Alaska Health Workforce Coalition (AHWC) was a public-private partnership created to develop, facilitate, implement, and support a statewide system to ensure Alaska has a well-qualified and sustainable workforce to meet current and future health care needs of its residents.

The system, through various strategies such as "Growing Our Own," targets health workforce topics such as access, policies, affordability, and locally available training and professional development. Health education programming for students in remote locations was also a focus.

Graphic of how the Alaska Health Workforce Coalition combines data and planning.

Coalition members included the following: Alaska Area Health Education Centers (AHECs); Alaska Behavioral Health Association; Alliance for Developmental Disabilities; Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium; Alaska Primary Care Association; Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Homes Association; Alaska Workforce Investment Board; Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority; Department of Education and Early Development; Department of Health and Social Services; Department of Labor and Workforce Development; and the University of Alaska. Additional key Alaska organizations with an interest in the health workforce were also participants.

The Coalition's early work was funded by a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) state healthcare workforce planning grant. The Coalition was also supported by partner organizations as part of their larger missions. The coalition merged with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority that now supports a program position administratively housed within the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

Healthcare workforce is a "priority area for the Trust because a competent and engaged group of direct support workers who can provide quality care is essential in Trust efforts to improve beneficiary outcomes. There are workforce shortages in every discipline of the healthcare industry in our state, and without stable and competent staff, the needs of vulnerable Alaskans will not be met."

Results

Graphic showing the Alaska Health Workforce Coalition report coversIn 2010, the coalition's workforce plan was approved by the Alaska Workforce Investment Board (AWIB) as Alaska's health industry plan. In September 2011, the Action Agenda for 2012-2015 was published identifying immediate priority occupations along with change initiatives required to address the state's workforce needs. The coalition's most recent information is now published in the 2017-2021 Action Agenda.

Priority occupations were identified based on current vacancies and projected future needs, recruitment difficulty, and importance to care delivery:

  • Primary care providers
  • Direct support professionals
  • Behavioral health clinicians/professionals
  • Peer support professionals
  • Physical therapists
  • Nurses
  • Healthcare administrators

Change initiatives identified as priorities were:

  • Health professional loan repayment and incentive programs
  • Training, competency evaluations, and professional development
  • Health workforce policies and infrastructure
  • Engage/Prepare Alaska youth for health careers
  • Health workforce recruitment and retention

Replication

For states pursuing a prioritized health workforce agenda, Alaska's process information is located in the Alaska Health Workforce Plan, and details on the selected priorities in the Action Agenda. Additional reports and resources that informed the AHWC work are available. The AHWC also has a scorecard for tracking progress on their priority initiatives that could be adapted.

Contact Information

Eric Boyer, Program Officer
Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority
907.388.9417
eric.boyer@alaska.gov

Topics
Healthcare workforce
Networking and collaboration

States served
Alaska

Date added
April 11, 2013

Date updated or reviewed
September 16, 2020

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2020. Alaska Health Workforce Coalition [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/723 [Accessed 31 October 2020]


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