Project Report

Barriers and bridges to implementing a workplace wellness project in Alaska


Craig N Sawchuk1 PhD, Professor *

Joan Russo2 PhD, Associate Professor

Gary Ferguson3 BS, ND, Adjunct Professor

Jennifer Williamson4

Janice Sabin5 PhD, Research Associate Professor

Jack Goldberg6 PhD, Research Professor

Odile Madesclaire7 MPH, Scientific Operations Manager

Olivia Bogucki8 PhD, Postdoctoral Medical Psychology Fellow

Dedra Buchwald9 MD, Professor


1, 8 Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA

2 Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington Medical Center, Health Sciences Building, Box 356560, Seattle, WA, USA

3 University of Alaska, 3211 Providence Drive, RH-306, Anchorage, AK, USA

4 Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, 4000 Ambassador Drive, Anchorage, AK, USA

5 Department of Biomedical Informatics and Medical Education, University of Washington, Health Sciences Building H-226, Seattle, WA, USA

6 Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington, Health Sciences Building, 1959 NE Pacific Street, F-262, Box 357236, Seattle, WA, USA

7, 9 Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health, Washington State University, 412 E. Spokane Falls Blvd, Spokane, WA, USA

ACCEPTED: 3 June 2020

early abstract:

Context: The vast, rugged geography and dispersed population of Alaska pose challenges for managing chronic disease risk. Creative, population-based approaches are essential to address the region’s health needs. The American Cancer Society developed Workplace Solutions, a series of evidence-based interventions, to improve health promotion and reduce chronic disease risk in workplace settings.
Issue: To adapt Workplace Solutions for implementation in eligible Alaskan businesses, research teams with the University of Washington and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium collaborated to address various geographic, intervention, and workplace barriers. Terrain, weather, and hunting seasons were frequent geographic challenges that were faced over the entire course of the pilot study. Coordinating multiple research review boards at the university, workplace, and regional tribal health organizations, study staff turnover during the entire course of the study, and difficulties obtaining cost effective intervention options were common intervention barriers that were experienced. Few workplaces meeting initial study eligibility criteria, turnover of business contacts, and a downturn in the state economy were all significant workplace barriers.    
Lessons Learned: Flexibility, organization, responsiveness, communication, and collaboration between research staff and businesses were routinely required to problem solve these geographic, intervention, and workplace barriers.