Partner Spotlight: Q&A with Anne Remick, Program Director, Alaska Breast and Cervical Screening Assistance Program

April 02, 2024 | ASTHO Staff

Group of women of different ages and races hugging each other and smiling

ASTHO and CDC’s Office of Health Equity established the Power of Partnerships Health Equity Alliance in 2024 to prioritize health equity during emergency responses. The Alliance is comprised of state, local, and territorial Offices of Health Equity, Women’s Health/Maternal Child Health, and other trusted leaders from community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations.

ASTHO spoke with the Anne Remick, a steering committee member of the Alliance and the Program Director of Alaska’s Breast and Cervical Screening Assistance Program, which helps eligible Alaskans get breast and cervical health screenings, mammograms, provides financial support for diagnostic tests, and helps connect Alaskans to resources.

How can public health enhance preventive care and health education initiatives to empower women to take charge of their health?

My work is very focused on breast and cervical cancer screening, but I believe there are universal truths to be explored that cross all aspects of taking charge of our health. Using accessible language and acknowledging past trauma should be standard. When talking with people about accessing health care, I emphasize that we all deserve a health care provider who listens and respects us. This includes consent in a deep way. Not only giving our consent for the provider to touch us, but consent on what is being screened or tested with clear and understandable communication.

When thinking about receiving health care as well as health education I think shifting the paradigm from a top-down directive approach to a more collaborative, judgement free approach is the direction we should be going. An approach that acknowledges that we all want good health as defined by us, but we might get there on different paths. This allows people to meet in a less confrontational space where true communication and trust can occur.

How we communicate with each other is so vital. Creating a system where we are heard, respected, and valued will empower us to take charge of our health.

In your experience, how important is policy and advocacy in improving women's health outcomes, and what role can leaders play in advancing supportive policies?

Policy and advocacy are vital to improving women’s health. Policy and advocacy create the systems we must navigate for improving women’s health outcomes. We need leaders to advocate for policies that take away barriers to care rather than create more disparities and risk women’s health.

If you could have dinner with a female leader that inspires your work, who would it be and why? What would you ask this person?

I am inspired by the stories of women trailblazers who lead the way for social justice. Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich is an amazing part of Alaska’s civil rights history. She was born in 1911 in Ketchikan. She was Tlingit and grew up in the era where discrimination against Alaska Native people was common. Signs in business windows like "No Dogs, No Natives” were not unusual.

Elizabeth and her family moved to Juneau in the 1940’s so they could have more access to lawmakers to advocate for change. She served as the Grand President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood and was instrumental in the passage of the first state or territorial civil rights legislation in the United States, 19 years before then President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. When an Alaska legislator voiced his opinion against allowing “…people, barely out of savagery…” to have equal rights Elizabeth reminded him of our United States Bill of Rights. She reminded the legislature that laws against discrimination will not end discrimination but “…at least you as legislators can assert to the world that you recognize the evil of the present situation and speak your intent to help us overcome discrimination."

Her testimony was critical to the passage of our nation’s first civil rights legislation. If I had a time machine and could have dinner with Elizabeth Peratrovich, I would love to hear about how she found the strength to keep going in the face of ignorance and prejudice with resolve and dignity. How we use our voices makes a big difference. I think Elizabeth Peratrovich did this masterfully.