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The Sitka Health Summit has been taking place for the last four years. Past summits have resulted in Sitka’s designation as a bicycle friendly community, and to the creation of the Sitka Farmer’s Market.


Participants discuss different ideas for health and wellness programs in Sitka, vote on their top choices, and then figure out how to make those things happen within 12 months.


“Well, we’re more ambitious than that,” said Kari Lundgren. “We’re shooting for Arbor Day.”


Lundgren is working on one of the initiatives: Planting 200 fruit-bearing trees throughout Sitka.


“They would be in public spaces,” she said, “so I think the vision would be that people could just stroll by and have a piece of fruit on their way by.”


Arbor Day is about six months off, and Lundgren says their goal is to at least get something started by then; probably not all 200 trees.  She says the trees will promote nutrition and sustainability. That’s the idea behind another initiative the group put forward – adding local fish to the menu in Sitka’s schools.


“The quality of local fish is so good,” said Kerry MacLane, also active with the Sitka Local Foods Network


 “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “This is already being done in Kodiak, in Dillingham and King Cove. They have programs called salmon to schools. Our group was really diverse, and they had a lot of energy. We had parents and fishermen and school board people and young people that all wanted to see this happen.”


A third initiative put forward by the health summit is to develop an outdoor recreation program in Sitka. Cyndy Gibson is leading the group for this idea. She says Sitka already has great opportunities on local trails, and through various programs.  And that there are a lot of people already using those.  But, she says, it tends to be the same people.


“And so our concern was, ‘Well, how do we get people out who aren’t getting out right now?’” she said. “Because if you’re really trying to improve the health of your community, you don’t want to help healthier people just keep on staying healthy or get healthy. You really want to target people who maybe aren’t getting as much activity as they could be or maybe even should be.”


The fourth initiative proposed by the health summit is to put up a mural to raise awareness about domestic violence. The theme will be “Choose Respect,” which ties it in with Governor Sean Parnell’s program by the same name.


The idea is to develop a positive, highly visible message. Mim McConnell is working with the mural group. She says it relates back to one theme she hears over and over again from people who work on domestic violence prevention.


“It’s too hidden,” she said. “This is something that happens in the privacy of the home, and it just isn’t talked about.”


A recent poll showed 59 percent of Alaskan women surveyed had been the victim of physical violence, threats, or sexual violence. If you extrapolate that data across the state’s population, it works out to about 145,000 women.


“One person is too many. I feel that this mural is a neat way, a positive way, to emphasize the importance of healthy relationships, and if that becomes the norm, then that’s going to make a healthy community.”


All of the groups have 12 months to accomplish their goals.

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