UAA’s College of Health awarded $1.77 million from Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, a leading health plan in the state, announced a $5.7 million investment to support access to rural health care in Alaska, Tuesday, Oct. 29, at an event held at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC).

Over the next three years, these investments will be distributed between UAA and ANTHC, as well as creating a new rural grantmaking program, housed at the Alaska Community Foundation, administered in partnership with Rasmuson Foundation.

UAA’s College of Health (COH) will receive a $1.77 million grant to expand the university’s associate and bachelor’s nursing degree programs at four of its campuses, three of which are in rural Alaska. The grant seeks to enhance the college’s Recruitment & Retention of Alaska Natives into Nursing (RRANN) program across rural Alaska.

Cathy Sandeen
UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen speaks as Premera Blue Cross holds a news conference announcing a $5.7 million investment in Rasmuson Foundation, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and UAA to expand access and improve quality of care in rural Alaska communities. (Photo by James Evans / University of Alaska Anchorage)

“Alaska has the highest health care costs of any state in the nation, and these costs are even higher in Alaska’s rural communities,” said Chancellor Cathy Sandeen. “We are committed to growing Alaska’s health care workforce. By increasing the number of nursing students from rural Alaska communities, the university helps meet the demand for medical professionals who understand the unique health care needs of rural Alaska and have a desire to return home to their communities to practice.” 

According to a 2017 study from the National Rural Health Association, people living in rural areas suffer worse health outcomes than their urban counterparts. They are sicker, poorer and older and are more likely to experience higher rates of premature death, disability and chronic disease. In Alaska, more than 200,000 people, or about 32% of the state’s population, live in rural communities.

Through research, education and community partnership, COH is working to advance the health and well-being of people and communities across Alaska and the globe, as well as preparing the next generation of health professionals in a diverse range of fields.

In addition to Premera’s gift to COH, the company awarded ANTHC, $700,000 as a capital grant to support building its Anchorage-based Education & Development Center (EDC), which will help create a state-of-the-art integrated health care education institution on its campus, and also provided $300,000 in grants to support Community Health Aide/Practitioner training programs across Alaska. Additionally, Premera will distribute $3 million in partnership with Rasmuson Foundation through the Rural Health Fund. The funds will be used to award a wide variety of grants addressing equity, availability and access to quality health care in rural areas.