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Sitka shortlisted for national health prize

Sitka has been shortlisted for a national health prize, called Roadmaps to Health. This week, a team from the University of Wisconsin and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in New Jersey visited to check out the city’s efforts to promote public health.

261 cities applied for the prize, and Sitka is one of twelve finalists. Six winners will receive a $25,000 grant.

The prize aims to reward cities that have embraced a broad approach to public health. That means taking into account traditional indicators like access to healthcare – but also looking at a wider range of issues.

“The most important issues are health behaviors — whether we smoke, are physically active, our diet,” said Robert Wood Johnson Foundation spokesman Joe Marx. “But even more important are social and economic factors, things like education, high school graduation rates, how many kids in poverty in your community, income, physical environment. Do you have safe places to walk and exercise? Things like that”

The team visited sites around Sitka, including the Hames Center and Pacific High School. Marx said the team was particularly impressed by the fish to schools program and the community gardens and Choose Respect Mural at Blatchley Middle School. Most of all, though, he said the team was impressed by a sense of community.

“What really struck me were the partnerships in this community,” Marx said. “The relationships are really genuine, they’re really authentic, it’s clear. People knew each other by first name, they work with each other, and you value that here in Sitka. That was very impressive to us.”

The prize is based on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings, which compare health indicators among every county in America.

The prize winners will be announced in June, 2014.

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