Applied research at the Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies (ICHS) addresses a wide variety of health problems and issues facing Alaskans, many of which are common to populations in the Circumpolar North. Alaska's rural and multi-cultural environment calls for a multi-disciplinary approach to defining health problems and identifying appropriate solutions.

The ICHS research agenda includes epidemiologic studies of population health, studies of health services, access and utilization, and evaluation of health policy and the effectiveness of new programs.


tundra landscape

Available Research Services

  • Survey research and community health assessment
  • Geographic information systems analysis for health research and planning
  • Rural health planning and development
  • Program evaluation and policy analysis
  • Community Based Participatory Research





Teenagers hanging out together

My Best Alaskan Life

Principal Investigator: Lauren Lessard

Funding sources: Alaska INBRE (NIH)

Status: Active

Partners: Alaska DHSS, Planned Parenthood, Anchorage School Based Health Centers, ANTHC, YKHC, Healthy Voices, Healthy Choices (HVHC)

"My Best Alaska Life" is a pilot project to test a decision-making tool that will guide adolescents in planning their future and adopting safer sexual health behaviors to meet their identified goals.

Pregnant woman holding her belly

EMBRACE Prenatal Care Study

Principal Investigator: Lauren Lessard

Funding sources: PCORI

Status: Active

Partners: Fresno State University; University of California- San Francisco

Randomized, multi-site comparative effectiveness study evaluating enhanced group prenatal care as compared to individual care and the potential impact of each on preterm birth, maternal mental health and perceptions of respectful care.

Salmon hanging to dry

Building and Strengthening Local and Regional Food Systems in the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands

Principal Investigator: Ruby Fried

Funding sources: USDA Regional Food System Partnership Grant

Status: Active

Partners: Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association

The overarching goals of this project are to assess local food systems in the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Region and to begin designing a regional food system through local and regional partnerships.

Berries in a basket

Traditional Food Security and Health

Principal Investigator: Ruby Fried

Funding sources: AI/AN Clinical and Translational Research Grant

Status: Active

Partners: Aleut Community of St. Paul Island (ACSPI) Tribal Government, Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (APIA)

Using CBPR methods, the primary goal of this study is to understand the factors impacting access to and use of traditional Alaska Native foods, and how culturally-relevant health measures may be related to traditional foods and activities.

Raging wildfire

Filling Data Gaps: Developing a community-centered tool for assessing health impacts of intersecting climate hazards, wildfire smoke exposure, and social disparities in Alaska

Principal Investigator: Micah Hahn

Funding sources: EPA

Status: Active

News Stories: Read more from Alaska Public Media

Dr. Hahn is working with a team of climate and environmental researchers and community partners to develop locally relevant and practical tools for access to health, climate, and environmental data in a useful and understandable way. Additionally, they are evaluating the implementation of low-cost air quality sensors in Alaska in order to support long-term air quality monitoring in the state.

Cars driving by a wildfire

Cardiorespiratory and mental health impacts of Alaskan wildfires

Principal Investigator: Micah Hahn

Funding sources: NSF EPSCoR, Bloomberg American Health Initiative

Status: Completed

News Stories: Read more from the Revelator,

Research Article: Read the full article

Through both quantitative and qualitative research designs, we assessed the health impacts associated with wildfires in Alaska. We conducted the first assessment of the cardiorespiratory health impacts of exposure to wildfire smoke in Alaska through a retrospective analysis of emergency department visits and particulate matter from recent wildfires. This modeling work can support the development of appropriate air quality thresholds for issuing warnings for vulnerable groups in the state. 

We also assessed the mental health impacts, coping strategies, and service gaps during the 2019 wildfires through a series of one-on-one interviews and focus groups with individuals, first responders, and behavioral health providers in southcentral Alaska. This work identified the primary mental health issues as well as the most feasible and actionable interventions to consider moving forward.

woman holding babyEvaluation Planning for Recovery Generation for Pregnant & Postpartum Reentrants

Principal Investigator: Ruby Fried

Funding sources: Gulling Consulting

Partners: CITC, Alaska Native Justice Center, Alaska DOC

This project contributes evaluation planning and performance measurement expertise to the Cook Inlet Tribal Council's planning grant entitled "Recovery Generation ofr Pregnant & Postpartum Reentrants" that is developing a combined reentry support and co-occuring disorders wraparound services plan to improve outcomes for prenatal and postpartum mothers.

councelor taking notesAlaska Alcohol Abuse Prevention Strategies: Assessment of Assets and Gaps

Principal Investigator: Ruby Fried, Travis Hedwig (DPHS)

Funding sources: Recover Alaska/Division of Behavioral Health Alaska

Partners: Recover Alaska, The Alliance

Supporting ongoing efforts to help establish the statewide Alliance: United to prevent alcohol misuse and promote community wellness. Activities include regional and statewide data scans, creation of training modules, technical and IRB assistance, etc.

covid vacination and maskCOVID-19 in Remote Alaska

Principal Investigator: Micah Hahn, Ruby Fried, Laura Eichelberger (ANTHC)

Funding sources: NSF Arctic Social Sciences RAPID

Partners: Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

Through three rounds of a state-wide survey and key informant interviews, this study is identifying strengths, knowledge, and behaviors associated with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in remote Alaska communities.





Evaluation of Onward & Upward's experiential learning curriculum

Principal Investigators: Micah Hahn

Funding sources: Mat-Su Health Foundation

Partners: Onward & Upward

Research Article: Read the full article

Onward & Upward (O&U) develops adventure-based experiential learning curricula for alternative high school students in Alaska. We developed and implemented a three-pronged evaluation framework to assess the impact of the curriculum on 1) fidelity of O&U programming, 2) individual student outcomes, and 3) the impact of the integration of O&U curriculum on the school environment.

Changing risk of ticks and tick-borne pathogens in Alaska

Principal Investigators: Micah Hahn

Funding sources: Alaska INBRE (NIH)

Partners: Alaska Office of the State Veterinarian, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, UAA Alaska Center for Conservation Science

Research Article: Read the full article

Ticks and tick-borne diseases are becoming more of a concern in Alaska. We developed a statewide surveillance system for tick monitoring (Alaska Submit-A-Tick program) where individuals can turn in ticks they find on themselves, their family members, pets, or on wildlife for identification and pathogen testing. We developed the state website on ticks, created a REDCap database and protocols for data collection and management, and performed DNA extraction on ticks. We also conducted field work to sample for ticks in recreational areas in Anchorage and the Kenai peninsula via tick drags and small mammal trapping.

Outbreak modeling and non-pharmaceutical interventions to support the COVID-19 response

Principal Investigators: Tom Hennessy, Co-PIs: Micah Hahn, Ruby Fried, Lauren Lessard

Funding sources: Municpality of Anchorage

We supported the Municpality of Anchorage COVID-19 response through several activities including real-time outbreak modeling, review of options for non-pharmaceutical interventions, and a series of white papers on the impact of the outbreak on specific topic areas.

Compounding physical and mental effects of recurring natural disasters

Principal Investigators: Micah Hahn

Funding sources: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Research Article: Read the full article 

We combined multiple public use datasets to assess the impact of natural disasters on physical and mental health across the 500 largest cities in the U.S. We found that communities that experienced a natural disaster in the previous years compared to those that had not had a higher incidence of poor reported mental health and physical health, high blood pressure and asthma.

APIA Dietary Assessment

Funding sources: APIA and DOE

The primary purpose of this project was to outline critical issues related to the sampling plan for dietary risk assessments related to protecting human health and the environment following nuclear testing on Amchitka Island in the 1960s and 1970s.

Critical congenital heart disease in Alaska

Principal Investigator: Micah Hahn

Funding sources: Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

This project supports the quality improvement of statewide newborn screening for congenital heart defects through statistical data analysis and data management consulting.

Development of the Anchorage Climate Action Plan

Principal Investigators: Micah Hahn

Funding sources: University of Alaska Foundation

Research Article: Read the full article 

We led a collaborative effort between the Municipality of Anchorage and over 80 working group members to develop an evidence-based strategy for climate mitigation and adaptation activities in the city. The Anchorage Climate Action Plan was adopted by the Anchorage Assembly in Spring 2019.

Promoting adaptive capacity with a geo-location device check-out program in Wainwright

Principal Investigators: Micah Hahn

Funding sources: National Indian Health Board

We evaluated the effectiveness of geo-location device check-out program in Wainwright on travel safety in unpredictable weather conditions.