The Alaska Federation of Natives Convention is known for being a gathering with cultural performances, discussions and speeches, but it’s also a chance for Alaska Natives to keep tabs on their health.
In its seventh year, people can get a flu shot, find advice on quitting smoking, receive healthy eating tips and more at the AFN health fair. More than 20 booths line a hallway on the second floor of the Dena’ina Center for the fair, which started Thursday morning and continues Friday.
A mobile mammography unit parked outside the Dena’ina Center is a new addition at the free fair this year.
“The mobile mammography unit screens for breast cancer,” said Dr. Gary Ferguson, senior director of community health services at Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. “Breast cancer is on the rise in Alaska Native people, as well as all populations. So it’s a really important screening to have.”
Hot pink decor made one booth stand out. Julie Stayden — a health educator with Southcentral Foundation — helped staff a table Thursday focused on breast and cervical cancer awareness. As a breast cancer survivor, underscoring prevention is a personal matter for her.
“Early detection saves lives,” said Stayden, who was sporting a bright pink kuspuk at day one of AFN.
Cancer is the leading killer of Alaska Natives, according to a 2015 report. For Native women, breast cancer is the most common. For Native men, colorectal and lung are the leading cancers.
AFN is a good opportunity to reach a big group of people, Ferguson said.
“AFN is our largest gathering of Alaska Native people and having a health fair here is … it’s one of those things where leaders and all of our customer-owners are here at once,” Ferguson said.
The fair has also expanded over the years, offering more services. In years past, the health fair was confined to rooms at the Dena’ina Center.
“We’ve got a large showing already,” said Ferguson as dozens of people milled about the fair Thursday afternoon.
This year, ANTHC, Southcentral Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services helped put on the fair.
If you go:
Where: Second floor of the Dena’ina Center
When: Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.