Maniilaq Association is a non-profit corporation located in rural Alaska, serving 12 communities including: Ambler, Buckland, Deering, Kiana, Kivalina, Kobuk, Kotzebue, Noatak, Noorvik, Point Hope, Selawik and Shungnak. The Maniilaq Association is not a part of the road system, and there are no roadways connecting any of the communities with each other. The only way in and out of this region is through air or water transportation. As of the last census, there were 8,197 people, of which 83% are Alaska Native.
Alaska has one of the highest number of falls in the nation. For Alaskans over the age of 40, falls are one of the main reasons for traumatic brain injuries. According to the Alaska State Trauma Registry Hospitalization Data, the Maniilaq service area has the highest rate of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the state. Additionally, falls accounted for 25% of all injury hospitalizations between 2007 and 2016 in the Maniilaq service area. Due to the high number of falls in our region, the strategy for years one and two will be focused on preventing unintentional falls, focusing on the elder population within the Maniilaq service area.
Strategies for this application will include: starting a Tai Chi program to help elders gain balance and strength to reduce injury hospitalizations due to falls; providing home safety awareness and action information to elders (age 60 and older) and provide free ice cleats for ice safety during the long winter months to elders and people with existing TBI.
In order to provide a more distinctive Tai Chi program, Maniilaq plans to work closely with each Village IRA to recruit, hire and train Tai Chi instructors who already live in the village. The Village IRA will also develop their own schedule based on their individual community needs and determine how frequently they want classes. They will also be responsible to establish all other logistics including locating a space big enough for classes and collecting data to report back to the Injury Prevention Specialist in Kotzebue.
Home Safety Awareness and Action Information pamphlets will be developed with information to help each family caring for an elder provide a safer home environment. Resources for these home improvements are already available in most areas, so contact information on where to get these resources will be included in the pamphlet. We want to connect our elders with the information and resources they need to create a healthy home environment.
Ice cleats are very popular within the Maniilaq service area, as most of the communities live above the Arctic Circle. With climate change happening, we have experienced weather changes including rain during cold winter months. This type of incident develops thick sheets of ice, which is hard on many people and especially elders, pregnant women and folks with existing TBI’s. Spring weather is also very icy, since during warm sunny days the snow tends to melt and refreeze during night. The Injury Prevention Program will continue handing out free ice cleats to elders within the Maniilaq service area.
Our long term goal is to reduce unintentional fall injury hospitalizations within the Maniilaq service area by 10%, from 25% down to 15%. This is a big jump, but we are confident in our program abilities and truly believe that by teaching Tai Chi in this region, elders will be more aware of their surroundings and have the strength and confidence to reduce fall injuries. There are many benefits of Tai Chi, but for now we are focusing on improving flexibility, balance, agility and muscle strength and definition to avoid unintentional fall injuries.