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Q&A: The State of Alaska

The State of Alaska Department of Health & Social Services successfully launched Omada for Prevention in late 2019 to all eligible adults in the state. Due to Omada for Prevention's success, the State of Alaska expanded their relationship with Omada to include diabetes management and hypertension management in 2021. 

This collaboration with Omada Health enables the State of Alaska to continue to provide care for underserved populations through these virtual-first programs for those who have or are at risk for chronic diseases. With over 500 individuals enrolled across conditions and counting, we wanted to hear more about how the State has built public health interventions for their communities. 


Q: What do you see for the future of health benefits? 

Dr. Shasteen: As the Chronic Disease section of the Department of Health, we are excited to see an increased attention paid to wellness and prevention. In our program, we focus heavily on working with healthcare delivery systems to identify and implement chronic disease prevention and monitoring services into already existing health delivery models.

Additionally as a public health entity in a vast and diverse state, we know Alaskans want to be their healthiest and it is our job to create and offer prevention programs that fit their lives. We customize programs with unique elements such as promoting local, sustainable or traditional foods, utilizing available (non-fresh) foods and promoting outdoor activities that resonate with Alaskans.

Q: What are the key three elements in building public health intervention that effectively supports your residents’ health?

Dr. Shasteen:

  1. Flexibility: All of our interventions need to work with our community where they are, in whatever method works for them- one size does not fit all in Alaska.

  2. Scalability: We want our interventions to work for one person, a whole community or a broad system. Adaptability is key to achieving as much “bang for the buck” as possible.

  3. Individual Centered: We focus heavily on the “no wrong door approach” for prevention. We want to provide as many options as possible that leave our communities and individuals empowered and engaged. “Teach a man to fish” and each person will learn to be healthy on their own terms.

Q: Virtual care has taken the spotlight over the last two years due to the pandemic. How has that impacted access to interventions for your residents?

Dr. Shasteen: Here in Alaska, telemedicine is not as new as many places “down states”. Our state’s far-flung communities, limited access to transportation and diverse mix of urban and rural living styles demand a variety of channels to access care. Particularly, during this last 18 months we have seen a broad uptake in the use of digital therapeutics. Alaskans are looking for a way to access wellness services on their own terms, their own schedule and in nontraditional environments.

We are pleased with Omada’s focus on making wellness and prevention programs readily available in locations and communities where utilization of services may be limited.  

Q: How does your organization engage its residents in utilizing the full breadth of Public Health Initiatives?

Dr. Shasteen: The State of Alaska has focused on engaging residents through a variety of outreach and educational opportunities. We work to support providers and clinical champions at local and private healthcare delivery systems across the state. We also reach out  directly to Alaskans, letting them know about the Omada program through social media, online, print and video messages.

Omada works hard to put together cohorts of Alaskan residents, creating an online community that “gets it” like only another Alaskan would. These cohorts are often our biggest community champions, sharing their successes with other residents as they work through the programs themselves.

Q: How have the Omada programs impacted your population and/or what is the feedback you have heard from your residents about the program?

Dr. Shasteen: Recently, at a statewide event, our state’s medical director was speaking on the impact of Covid-19 on chronic diseases. During her presentation she spoke about the digital therapeutics programs we sponsor, including the Omada platform.

We were pleased to see commentators in the moderated chat discussing their personal successes with the Omada system.  One commenter enthusiastically shared that she has lost over 100 pounds using Omada’s Diabetes Prevention Program. These successes represent only a small minority of the program’s participants yet still excite us as we see wins, both small and large, from all across the state.

"One commenter enthusiastically shared that she has lost over 100 pounds using Omada’s Diabetes Prevention Program."