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Sitka receives RWJF Culture of Health prize for impressive efforts to create a thriving community

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recognizes Sitka for bringing partners together to create lasting change

SITKA, Alaska (Nov. 12, 2019) — Sitka is one of five winners of the 2019 RWJF Culture of Health Prize awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Prize honors and elevates communities for working at the forefront of advancing health, opportunity, and equity. Sitka is being nationally recognized for pursuing innovative ideas and bringing partners together to rally around a shared vision of health.

Chosen from nearly 200 applicant communities across the country, Sitka’s award-winning efforts include strong collaborations, such as Sitka’s Indian Child Welfare Act partnership and Wooch.een Preschool; investment in youth, such as the new Teen Center, Culturally Responsive Schools initiative, youth scholarships, and Sitka Counseling’s prevention work; and community development that balances social, ecological, and economic well-being, such as Sitka’s use of renewable energy, initiatives like Spruce Root’s Community Investment Fund, and being a bike and walk friendly community.

“This is an exciting award. And it’s important to note that it wasn’t given to a single organization or a group of organizations, but the entire community. There have been so many people that have worked to build a culture of health that it’s important to give a global thank you,” said Doug Osborne, health educator at the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium and member of the Sitka Health Summit Coalition. “Gunalcheesh, salamat, gracias, and thank you to everyone that’s been building a Culture of Health in Sitka’s past, present, and future. This was a great team effort.”

“The 2019 RWJF Culture of Health Prize winners recognize that health is about more than just healthcare. It’s about what happens where we live, work, learn, and play. They are fundamentally reshaping their communities so that everyone has a fair opportunity for health and well-being,” said Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of RWJF. “These communities show the nation that solutions are within our grasp when we use local data to identify challenges and work together to implement solutions brought forward by residents.”

Sitka will receive a $25,000 prize, join a network of Prize-winning communities, and have its inspiring accomplishments shared throughout the nation. The other four winning communities are: Broward County, Fla.; Gonzales, Calif.; Greenville County, S.C.; and Lake County, Colo. Sitka is the first community in Alaska to win the distinguished Prize. Click this link to see a video of the awards ceremony.

To become an RWJF Culture of Health Prize winner, Sitka had to demonstrate how it excelled in the following six criteria:

  • Defining health in the broadest possible terms.

  • Committing to sustainable systems changes and policy-oriented long-term solutions.

  • Creating conditions that give everyone a fair and just opportunity to reach their best possible health.

  • Harnessing the collective power of leaders, partners, and community members.

  • Securing and making the most of available resources.

  • Measuring and sharing progress and results.

“This award shows a commitment to improving health for everyone in our town, which means addressing disparities and promoting equity in all areas of life in Sitka, including access to housing, nutritious foods, and meaningful opportunities. It also means tackling longstanding issues such as colonization, racism, and climate change, which are all intertwined with community health,” said Chandler O’Connell, Sitka Conservation Society community catalyst.

From left to right, Julie Morita, Chandler O’Connell, Vera Gibson, Tina Bachmeier, Holly Marban, Doug Osborne, Loyd Platson, and Sheri Johnson, on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize Celebration and Learning Event in Princeton, N.J., presenting and accepting Sitka, Alaska’s 2019 RWJF Culture of Health Prize award. Morita and Johnson are with the RWJF, while the six others are part of the Sitka Health Summit Coalition. Copyright 2019 Flynn Larsen. Photo courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Local celebration events will take place in Sitka a month from now, on Dec. 12 and 13, with more details to be published soon.

A delegation of six community leaders from Sitka is currently at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation along with representatives from the other 2019 Prize-winning communities. All communities are being honored as part of the Prize Celebration and Learning Event at RWJF headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey. Delegates will participate in several activities, two of which will be webcast live at

  • 2019 RWJF Culture of Health Prize Award Ceremony 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m. ET, 7:00-8:15 a.m. AKT Prize winners will be presented their certificates and offer acceptance remarks.

  • Prize Winner Panel Discussion on Courageous Conversations 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET, 9:30-10:30 a.m. AKT

The 2019 Prize winners are tackling challenging issues such as racism, poverty, and trauma. Representatives from Prize communities will discuss how they are building understanding among residents by creating the space for frank and open conversations that lead to more inclusive action.

Learn about the Prize-winning work underway in Sitka through a collection of videos, written profiles and photos at

Here is a link to the essay Sitka submitted for the first phase of the application process, Here is a link to the essay Sitka submitted for the second phase of the application process,


About the Sitka Health Summit Coalition

The Sitka Health Summit is a program that pioneers citizen driven and directed health improvements. The Summit hosts an annual Planning Day that provides community members with the opportunity to prioritize community health and wellness needs, and then to collaborate to create year-long initiatives that address these needs. Through grassroots action, community members are empowered to make Sitka a happier and healthier place. Members include Sitka Counseling, SEARHC, Sitkans Against Family Violence, University of Alaska Sitka Campus and Sitka Conservation Society. For more information, go to

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

About the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute advances health and well-being for all by developing and evaluating interventions and promoting evidence-based approaches to policy and practice at the local, state, and national levels. The Institute works across the full spectrum of factors that contribute to health. A focal point for health and health care dialogue within the University of Wisconsin-Madison and beyond, and a convener of stakeholders, the Institute promotes an exchange of expertise between those in academia and those in the policy and practice arena. The Institute leads the work on the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps and the RWJF Culture of Health Prize. For more information, visit

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