Researcher says Juneau is healthiest community in Alaska

One of the indicators of a healthy community is access to recreational areas and trails, which Juneau has plenty of. (Photo by Heather Bryant)

One of the indicators of a healthy community is access to recreational areas and trails, which Juneau has plenty of. (Photo by Heather Bryant)

A report by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence shows that Juneau is the healthiest community in Alaska, according to researcher Matt Felix. He presented the Juneau Healthy Indicators Report to Juneau’s Assembly earlier this week.

He says Juneau also ranks high nationally, “Our water is so clean that it’s cleaner than the stuff you buy out of a plastic jug. We’ve got a wonderful health infrastructure around here for our size. Our hospital is an amazing hospital even with a target population regionally of 50,000, so it’s the reason why we’re so well rated by national surveys in terms of health.”

Felix says part of the report’s goal is to give community health planners an indication of how to make a community healthier, so the report also focuses on Juneau’s weaknesses.

“The primary ones are drug and alcohol abuse and all the diseases associated with those two things. And there were two surveys done in Juneau – one in 2005, the Compass Survey, and another, the McDowell Survey in 2010 – and people in the community identified alcohol and drug abuse as the main issues, too, so the community is aware,” Felix says.

According to the report, Southeast Alaska is the heaviest drinking region in the state and one of the highest consuming regions in the nation.

Felix says Juneau also has a high rate of Hepatitis C, similar to the rest of the state, and a high rate of sexually transmitted diseases.

The Healthy Indicators report also shows that Juneau’s population is rapidly aging, says Felix:

“We are one of the fastest – if not the fastest – communities in the United States in terms of our aging population. That’s going to impact our healthcare system here tremendously both financially and in terms of special kinds of care that we’re going to need.”