Program Recognized for Work to Improve Health Equity

March 15, 2019
SCF Success Story

Alaska Native children have disproportionately high rates of poverty, infant mortality, and other conditions that can undermine healthy development. The Nutaqsiivik Nurse-Family Partnership, a home visiting program sponsored by the Southcentral Foundation, is working to improve those conditions and assure children a good start in life.

The program received the first annual Health Equity Award presented by the Alaska Public Health Association for its efforts. “The award was presented at the Association’s annual summit banquet in 2016, and it was really exciting,” said Vanessa Hiratsuka, a senior researcher at the Southcentral Foundation. “Our organization supported the staff by purchasing tables for the Nutaqsiivik staff to attend and receive the award as a program.”

The Southcentral Foundation is an Alaska Native-owned, nonprofit health care organization based in Anchorage. The Nutaqsiivik program is supported in part by a grant from the Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (Tribal Home Visiting), administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF). The Southcentral Foundation is one of 25 tribal organizations participating in the federal Tribal Home Visiting program.

For more than 20 years, the Nutaqsiivik program has provided education and support to Alaska Native families as a supplement to regular prenatal care and well-child checkups. The staff include registered nurses with maternal child health training. They are an extension of the family’s primary care team and can help address a variety of issues that affect child and family well-being.

“We address all of the psycho-social-spiritual needs of individuals and not just the physical aspect of things,” said Tina Anliker, one of the program’s clinical coordinators. “We help them figure out how to go back to school if that’s their goal, or how to get to their prenatal appointments when they don’t have reliable transportation or safe child care if they have other children. We’re looking at those other resources to help them be successful.”

“We work with one mother who always wanted to be a flight attendant, that was her kind of pie-in-the-sky dream,” said Kelly Murphy, another clinical coordinator. “Her nurse was like, ‘Well okay, I don’t know anything about that, but I’ll help you find out that information.’ And now her toddler is 2, and she is a flight attendant. They both learned on that journey.”

Other important features of the program include being voluntary and flexible. “The families get to choose us,” said Murphy. “We give them options when they are asking for information, letting them know there are different ways to do things. And if they decide to opt out of the program once they’re enrolled, we let them know they can come back any time before their child is 2 years old. We move with them in and out of their decisions.”

“It really goes back to that relationship building, which is embedded in the organization,” said Anliker. “Every staff member who is hired here goes through orientation and in-depth training, which really ingrain that it’s part of the fabric and the culture here that relationship is key in order to work with people and support them in their journey in health and wellness.”

“What I see with this program is that the staff and the leadership have a deep and abiding understanding, belief, and hope for the people that we serve,” said Hiratsuka. “They realize that not all of us have the same start in life, that multiple chances are sometimes needed, that people can change, and that we change when we have support. The families are the ones doing the work, and we get to support them in the work that they’re doing. It’s a beautiful thing to get to see.”

For more information about the Nutaqsiivik Nurse-Family Partnership contact Marisa Wang at or 907-729-4996.

Southcentral Foundation is an Alaska Native-owned, nonprofit health care organization serving nearly 65,000 Alaska Native and American Indian people living in Anchorage, Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and 55 rural villages in the Anchorage Service Unit. It offers more than 80 programs and employs more than 2,000 people. Its vision is a Native Community that enjoys physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Find out more about the Southcentral Foundation Visit disclaimer page .

ACF’s Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program provides grants to tribal entities to develop, implement, and evaluate home visiting programs in American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities. The grants are intended to help develop and strengthen tribal capacity to support and promote the health and well-being of AIAN families, expand the evidence base around home visiting in tribal communities, and support and strengthen cooperation and linkages between programs that serve tribal children and their families. Find out more about the Tribal Home Visiting program and grantees.