Experiences of Alaska Native People Living with Burn Injuries

Experiences of Alaska Native People Living with Burn Injuries

By: Alexandra de Leon Date: January 8th, 2024

Injuries are a major cause of death and disability in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. A study resulting from a partnership between the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), Alaska Native Medical Center, UW Medicine Regional Burn Center, the HIPRC, and the Northwest Regional Burn Model System sought out to understand burn injuries across the burn care continuum in AN/AI communities.

Major improvements have been made in burn care capacity across Alaska thanks in large part to local trauma and burn care champions and AN advocates (e.g., Dr. Elisha Brownson of Alaska Native Medical Center, Mr. Chris Madison of Native Village of Kotzebue). However, AN people with burn injuries continue to face barriers to accessing care. The study, published November 2023 in BMC Health Services Research, found three main themes related to the experience of receiving care for burn injuries by AN people.

Participants reported:

  • Challenges with access to local burn care, (2) mismatch of cultural values and medical practices, and (3) challenges accessing emotional health support.

“Participants shared insights with us for how their care can be improved in communication, knowledge translation, and unique interventions,” says principal investigator, Dr. Barclay Stewart. “These findings highlight the impacts of long-standing underfunding to indigenous health services and Alaska Native communities on systems of care for complex injuries.”

The study also found that people in remote Alaskan communities would be motivated to learn about burn first aid, community-based care measures, and initial burn management. Barclay adds that this presents an opportunity to strengthen local healthcare systems with focused education and outreach on burn first aid that leverages existing infrastructure like community health aids, Project ECHO, and the Alaskan Trauma System.

Authors on this paper represent University of Washington Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center; Department of Pediatrics, Rehabilitation Medicine, and the Division of Trauma, Critical Care, and Burns at the Department of Surgery in the UW School of Medicine; Department of Surgery at Alaska Native Medical Center and Alaskan Trauma System; and Native Village of Kotzebue.