The Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation (BBAHC) was recently awarded an inaugural EPA grant, “Addressing Bed Bugs in Rural Alaska”. This is a two year grant, and $69,446.39 has been awarded for FY16 with $29,989.32 pending for FY17. In an effort to spread these dollars further, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) Office of Environmental Health is collaborating with BBAHC as an in-kind contributor and is assisting with managing the grant and the associated deliverables.
Both BBAHC and TCC were really excited when the grant was announced, as our respective programs have been limited to providing basic education about detection, prevention, and elimination of bed bugs. We’re among many that have identified the need for more resources in rural Alaska. This grant has given us an opportunity to explore rural application of integrated pest management (IPM) through the dissemination of ‘tool kits,’ hot boxes to treat furniture and other replicable solutions. The project focuses on rural Alaska and is not limited to a particular region in the state, so we’ve created a state wide Advisory Group to include members from all over Alaska. The Advisory Group is made up of of tribal environmental health and pest management professionals; healthcare providers; EPA and DEC pesticides programs; rural Alaskans and members of academia. We’ve been meeting monthly to discuss the scope of the grant and how to best accomplish it. The Advisory Group is very important in getting feedback on initiatives, as well as figuring out if the needs differ by region.
During this first year our efforts are focused on identifying existing resources and developing materials that can be used statewide to address the bed bug problem. This will include village action plans and how to safely and effectively apply thermal treatment. Tool kits consisting of equipment that will assist rural Alaskans with detection, prevention and elimination of bed bugs in their homes will be distributed as part of an overall IPM approach.
It is well known that rural communities do not typically have access to pest management professionals’ resources, making it difficult to treat large household items such as furniture. One of the main objectives our workplan aims to accomplish is the distribution of hot boxes to a handful of rural communities, as well as educating these particular communities on how to use the hot boxes and the items included within the tool kits. Participating communities will be selected through an application process. If funded for a second year, the project aims to create an educational video to expand on the work completed and lessons learned during year one of the grant. This outreach will be made available statewide.
Our overall goal is to give rural Alaskans some real tools to bite back at bed bugs. Bed bugs may be a standard pest these days, but they do not have to be the standard of living.
If you have questions or comments about this work, contact the BBAHC Environmental Health staff at (888) 792-2242.
Contributed by Jennifer Skarada & Mary Schneider, BBAHC and Katie Bante, TCC-OEH