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Alaska Native Epidemiology Center

The Healthy Portraits Project

Health facts are important. Some of these facts, however, can be discouraging. What would happen if we focused on healthy community activities?— Healthy Portraits does just that.

Healthy Portraits highlights healthy success stories through photography and storytelling. It is a way to celebrate communities making positive changes towards wellness. This project is different in two ways—1) it focuses on healthy change, and 2) it returns the photos back to the communities.

This project is funded by OMH grant number AIAMP120014.

Story Thumbnail of Boy Skiing

the story

We find Alaska health stories that inspire, motivate, and bring communties together.

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the photos

Boy holding large photograph of himself skiing

To photograph the story, we travel to each community at least twice.

the return

On the last visit, we return the photos to celebrate their success stories of health.

2015: Tyonek Grown

The Alaska Native EpiCenter partnered with the Tyonek Tribal Conservation District (TTCD) to tell the story of the amazing community garden in the Native Village of Tyonek.

Elders in the community had been gardening for years, but it was fading. Aimed at providing fresh organic vegtables and enhancing food security, the village made it a priority in 2008 to start growing local vegetables.

The 1.5 acre garden, now in it's fourth year, runs entirely on renewable energy, using solar-powered irrigation and ventilation systems. Two high tunnel greenhouses greatly extend the growing season.

Every year, students from the Tebughna School are heavily involved in everything from caring for seedlings to watering and weeding to harvesting produce. Four youth workers were also employed over the summer to help with garden tasks, running farmers markets and delivering food to local Elders.

ANTHC EpiCenter staff visited the garden over the summer to photograph the garden blessing, cooking demonstrations, and harvests. Here is the photographic story of the Tyonek garden and the community members who made it happen!

2013: NANANordic

NANANordic’s goal is to introduce the lifetime sport of cross-country skiing to rural Alaska starting with villages in the NANA region.

In April 2013, 1,500 students were introduced to skate skiing in the 11 villages making up the NANA region. Additionally, NANANoridic visited White Mountain in the Bering Strait Region and Anaktuvuk Pass in the North Slope Region. –source:

Alaska Native EpiCenter staff traveled with NANANordic to the villages of Noatak and Shungnak to photograph NANANordic coaches and their students learning to cross country ski.

In August of 2013, they returned to give the photos back to the communities where they are permanently displayed. The hope is that the photos will continue to inspire healthy choices and acheivements.

Healthy Portraits 2013 video

NANA Development Corporation LogoNANANordic Program Logo

Share Your Story Idea

The Tyonek Garden and NANANordic are just a couple of the many stories about positive, healthy activitives in Alaska Native communities.

The Healthy Portraits project takes place every other year. Help us find more projects like these to highlight with the next Healthy Portraits project. Send us your ideas!