State looks to promote health beyond COVID-19

“Healthy You 2022” will focus on a different component of well-being every quarter

Image via Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

Image via Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

The state Department of Health and Social Services is launching a new initiative this year centered on overall well-being.

The initiative, called “Healthy You 2022,” will focus on a different component of well-being every quarter, DHSS officials said during a press briefing last week.

“(We’re) really trying to do what we can to promote the health and well-being,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink said. “That is our mission and our goal within public health.”

This quarter’s focus is on the importance of physical exercise and activity.

For almost two straight years, Alaskans have had their normal lives uprooted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Smoking, obesity, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, and chronic kidney disease place Alaskans at a higher risk for severe illness and hospitalization from COVID, according to the DHSS, which is why the department wants to tackle healthy living this year.

Heidi Hedberg, the state director of public health, said during the press briefing last week the DHSS wants to support Alaskans in both their physical health and mental health.

“Within the Division of Public Health we have a ton of programs, and they’re eager to really do more work in that space,” Hedberg said. “As a department, we really are reaching out to industries and other partners, really to elevate ‘Healthy You in 2022.’”

Hedberg also said the DHSS has a goal to increase the overall health and well-being of Alaskans by 2030.

“We also have ‘Healthy Alaskans 2030,’ which is a series of objectives where we really are trying to move the needle to creating a healthier state,” she said. “We really are excited to move more in that direction.”

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death in Alaskans in 2017 was cancer, followed by heart disease. Suicide was the sixth-leading cause of death in Alaskans in 2017.

Part of the upcoming programming, Hedberg said, will focus on healthy living even amid the pandemic. She said learning how to live with COVID is something the DHSS, as well as national health care systems, is spending energy on.

“I think that we are going to be slowly transitioning the systems that we established as resources change,” Hedberg said. “We always want to make sure there’s access to testing, access to science, access to therapies, but we also want to make sure that we’re spending our time focusing on other public health concerns.”

According to a DHSS health blog from last week, exercise not only helps people’s physique, but also their mental health. Some of the ways exercise helps include feeling less anxious or depressed, an improved ability to focus, improved sense of memory and reduction in stress.

The amount of physical exercise depends on age, according to the health blog. School-aged kids are recommended 60 minutes a day, while adults are recommended 150 minutes every week.

“You’ll be seeing more from our team in this space and (we) are working with many partners to increase physical activity through this first quarter,” Zink said. “So if you haven’t gotten out for a run today or hike, (I) hope you are able to incorporate that into your day as well.”

For more information and programming, follow the DHSS on Facebook.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at

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