The Community Health Aide Program was developed to meet the healthcare needs of rural Alaska in the 1950s and 1960s. When the TB epidemic was sweeping through Alaska in the 1950’s, the possibility of home treatment provided the opportunity to utilize village workers in the Bethel region to distribute antibiotics. This successful demonstration of the use of local people as health care providers led to the concept of the Community Health Aide Program (CHAP), which was established with funding from IHS in 1968.
The Community Health Aide Program is a sustainable, successful, and culturally acceptable health care delivery system in Alaska Native villages. With focused training and support, community health professionals deliver quality care in rural environments.
Community Health Aides/Practitioners are local people who are trained to become often the only healthcare provider in their community. Not only are they seeing patients during normal clinic hours but must also provide on-call service after hours. They receive training at one of a few training centers in Alaska to work within the guidelines of the Alaska Community Health Aide/Practitioner Manual (CHAM). The CHAM outlines assessment and treatment protocols and they work closely with providers in Bethel or Sub Regional Clinics (SRC) to provide these services. Communication with providers happens with what we still call Radio Medical Traffic (or RMT) from back when VHF radios were the only way to communicate from the village to Bethel (or often from village to village to Bethel).
Being a Community Health Aide/Practitioner is a demanding position with the health care of the community being their responsibility twenty-four hours a day. It’s important that they are supported by everyone including, their family, their community members, village leadership, and corporate leadership.
The Community Health Aide Program (CHAP) at YKHC is comprised of four departments: