Workforce Initiative Helps to Bring Innovation and Equity to Alaska

Continuing the CDC Foundation’s ongoing mission to support the national public health system, the project known as the Workforce Initiative is partnering with health departments across the U.S. to address COVID-19, health equity and other community health concerns by providing skilled support staff in a variety of important roles. Along with traditional public health workers like epidemiologists, case investigators and more, the Foundation is also adding professionals like policy analysts, communications specialists, informaticians and more to the mix.

Of the more than 2,600 public health workers hired and currently on the job, 38 are assigned to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). These Foundation field employees are working on several interesting projects that are making a significant impact on the department’s ability to protect the public health of its diverse population. Regional coordinator Celia Jackson has been supporting them throughout and collecting kudos for their contributions.

Anne Zink, Chief Medical Officer for Alaska

Dana Loutey, program director

Aaron Walbrecher, public health nurse

Celia Jackson, regional coordinator

Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, took time to share her appreciation for the placement of Dana Loutey, a program director focusing on public health policy issues. “She is perfect for the job,” says Zink. “She is motivated, kind, knows how to get the right people involved, and … her work is well researched, on time and to the point, even with little to no direction.” Zink closes by saying, “I would love to keep her as long as possible. Thank you to the CDC Foundation!”

For her part, Loutey says she’s gained valuable insight into the importance of crafting policy that is responsive to the concerns and interests of diverse stakeholders. “I’m particularly interested in issues at the intersection of public health and environmental health, which disproportionately affect populations who are already disadvantaged by our health care system. I am so grateful to the CDC Foundation for making this opportunity possible, and I look forward to going to work (ahem, my living room office) every day.”

In addition, experienced public health nurse Aaron Walbrecher has been producing a number of useful tools for the department, including transitional guidance for contact tracers who will be moving from COVID-19 to more focused mitigation measures. He’s especially gratified by a 2021 year-in-review report that revealed higher than expected numbers for projected lives saved and cases and hospitalizations averted by the COVID-19 contact tracing program.

Pattie Baker, communications specialist

Precious Walker, health equity project manager

Recognized for their experience and effectiveness, Walbrecher and his colleague Stacie Hawkins (another CDC Foundation public health nurse and contact tracer supervisor) have been asked to provide mentorship for new public health professionals enrolled in a residency with Alaska DHSS as part of a workforce-rebuild initiative at the department. “It’s exciting to be working with the CDC Foundation during this time of change,” Walbrecher says.

Communications specialist Pattie Baker is working on Alaska’s Healthy You in ‘22 initiative and has been helping create new social media content. In addition to sharing an ongoing series of branded posts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Baker and the Public Information team have begun using the Instagram Reels feature to showcase short videos themed around 22 Ways to Move to a More Healthy You in ’22. This will make Alaska DHSS one of the few health jurisdictions in the nation using this tool for public health communication. “So many hands are involved with this project,” Baker says of her work partnership with the jurisdiction. “Our analytics and other feedback so far indicate that it seems to be a success.”

It’s exciting to be working with the CDC Foundation during this time of change.

Precious Walker, a health equity project manager supporting the epidemiology immunization program, has been focused on increasing vaccine uptake and fighting misinformation in disproportionately affected communities. By building a relationship with the Alaska Black Caucus she was able to assist in creating a neighborhood vaccine clinic that provides access to free COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, boosters and information about safety protocols. She also coordinated the efforts to make vaccines accessible to three Housing and Urban Development (HUD) properties. “I am proud that my colleagues and I are implementing plans of action to make equitable change and increase wellness in Alaska.”

The Foundation is equally proud to support the efforts of these creative and dedicated Workforce team members as part of a successful partnership to improve health and wellness for all in local communities throughout Alaska.



This article is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $220,000,000 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the authors(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by CDC/HHS or the U.S. government.

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