The Riveter

About 70% of adult Alaska men have at least one underlying health condition that can increase the seriousness of COVID-19 should they become infected, this according to information released Monday by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). In Alaska, around 66% of white adults, 81% of Alaska Native and American Indian adults, and 48% of Asian adults are reported by DHSS as having at least one condition.

Sex, race, education, income, age, and sexual orientation are all linked to differing levels of risk for COVID-19 complications, according to DHHS. Higher risk conditions are found in 80% of Alaska’s elderly, 80% of adults with a high school education, 77% of adults living at or below 185% of the federal poverty guidelines, and 76% of those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or another sexuality.

Last November, Alaska’s Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotionreported  2 out of 3 Alaska adults have at least one underlying health condition that increases their chances of being hospitalized, admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), put on a ventilator, or dying. 

Underlying conditions of concern include obesity, current or past smoking, diabetes, heart disease or heart attacks, chronic kidney disease and lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Older Alaskans and people with multiple underlying conditions are prioritized for some of the first-available vaccines under Alaska’s new vaccine allocation plan.

“Our analysis shows that factors like race, poverty, and lower levels of education are linked to poor health outcomes,” said Alaska Section of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion manager Karol Fink. “But it’s important to understand that these factors are connected to health because they can impact the ability to find and afford nutritious foods, to live in safe communities that make it easier to walk or bike to stores and workplaces, to find and pay for quality medical care, and even to get to and from hospitals and clinics that provide that care.”

“It’s these areas of access and affordability that we need to improve so all Alaskans have better health overall,” Fink said. “Many programs within our section and the health department focus on improving where we live, learn, work and play. Those improvements give everyone better chances of staying healthy for a lifetime.”