Issue Briefs

Issue Areas:


Arts & Culture

Hear Dr. Cornel West discuss the importance of Arts & Culture in a Social Movement


The issue area of Arts & culture encompasses a great deal more, within the Anchorage area, than may be seen on a surface level. There is an obvious abundance of local Alaska artists who produce memorable works of theater, film, and art; additionally, there are many other organizations hard at work, in our immediate area, dedicated to recognizing and preserving the unique aspects of culture and identity that comprise the ethnically diverse population of our city. Overall, this issue area centers on the focal point of personal and collective expression. Individuals and community organizations that enable and foster the creative expression and cultural conservation are essential to the Anchorage community.

Community & Economic Development

Community and Economic Development is the process of connecting citizens, businesses, non-profit organizations, and government organizations in an effort of collaboratively improving or revitalizing a community.

Recently, Community and Economic Development has been a major effort in Mountain View and Fairview. There are many organizations in these two areas of Anchorage that are working toward creating economically improved, safer, and more vibrant communities.


Youth Education & Development - Early to Middle

This issue area has aimed its focus on early childhood education programs in Alaska. Current research on head start and reading programs suggest that kids who go to preschool substantially improve their performance in elementary school. Recently much funding has gone into supporting these programs in the United States. There are lots of reasons why early childhood education is important to our community.  There are both short-term and long-term gains from investing our time, money and energy in improving the quality and quantity of education our at risk children are receiving.

In a review on the economic benefits of investing in early childhood education Calman and Whelman (2005) stated “Research shows that children who start school behind typically stay behind” (p.11). Quality early education programs provide young children with the social, language, and number skills they need. Children who start Kindergarten ready to learn show better performance through grade school and are more likely to graduate from High School. These programs decrease the cost spent on special education resources and create jobs, and opportunities to work for Mothers who were previously unable to work due to child-care costs (Calman & Whelman, 2005).  There are strong economic returns and strong educational benefits for members of the community at all ages. Investing in our children’s early education is investing in our community, reducing crime rates, and creating jobs in addition to educating our children (Calman & Whelman, 2005).

Anchorage is involved with its children’s education and is working to support its youth through programs like head start.  Head start is a non-profit program for underprivileged kids that provide early learning opportunities. Kids enrolled in head start also receive free medical and dental care, have healthy meals and snacks, and are able to play in an indoor and outdoor setting safely. Head start is available for ages 3-5 in almost every county in the Country. In Anchorage, there are also early head start programs. These programs are available for infants and toddlers. The early head start program is for children six months and older. Parents typically need to be below the poverty line, and be involved in education or have a job in order to use this early head start program. Head start is community oriented and offers many opportunities to parents including parenting trainings, assistance in obtaining a GED, and opportunities for parents to learn English or learn to read.


Youth Education & Transition to Young Adulthood


Environment & Sustainability


Food Security and Affordable Housing


Health & Mental Health

The issue area of Health and Mental Health is so broad that it has been narrowed down to three sections: health disparities, dental health, and mental health. Many aspects of Alaska are unique – its day less summers and night less winters, its harsh climate, and exceptional landscape. Mental health issues are also unique to Alaska. Alaska had high rates of suicide, alcohol and substance abuse, and mental illness. These problems are countered by the high number of mental health agencies in Alaska that provide the support and care that Alaskans need.

Compared to other Americans, the American Indian and Alaska Natives experience lower health status such as lower life expectancy and higher disease rates. These issues could be due to inadequate education, poverty, discrimination of health services, and cultural differences. On average, Alaska Natives and American Indians live 5.2 years less than other populations. They also die from tuberculosis, alcoholism, diabetes, homicide, and suicide at higher rates than the rest of Americans do. These health disparities of Alaska Natives are troubling since most Americans appreciate a high health status.  

One of the most common childhood diseases in the United States is dental decay. Children across the United States miss almost 52 million school hours each year due to oral health problems. Not only are children missing school, but dental problems can cause eating, learning, and speech problems for them. Although dental decay preventatives such as fluoridated water, toothpastes, supplements, topical rinses, and dental sealants have decreased the degree of decay in children, low-income families are still excessively affected by dental decay today. Compared to the children in the lower 48, Alaska Native children experience 3 to 4 times the amount of dental decay. Also, the dental labor force in Alaska is getting older with more than 25% of its licensed dentists 55 years of age or older and 39% are between the ages of 45-54.

Immigrants & Refugees


Safe Families and Safe Communities

Domestic violence (DV), sexual assault (SA), and child abuse and neglect are all occurring at higher rates in Alaska when compared to the rest of the United States. These issues are an intricate part of our community since they affect the health and well-being of the diverse family units in Alaska. On both a state level and community level the issues are being recognized and addressed by a variety of programs and organizations. These associations work with all members of families to build a strong foundation of awareness and promote breaking the cycle of violence. Engage Social Issues recognizes the value of student and faculty involvement with current programs and promotes the development of innovative ideas and strategies to encourage safe families and safe communities.