Victory knew she didn’t feel great. Every week was a different set of hours as a flight attendant, sometimes flying all-nighters and other times reporting for work at 3 a.m. Approaching 50, the Anchorage mother and her husband faced ongoing challenges while raising their daughter with special needs. She felt stressed. Her sleep schedule was off. She wanted to lose weight.
Then an unexpected email showed up: Try this free health program in Alaska. You may be eligible.
Victory checked it out and learned it was one of the Alaska Department of Health’s free programs for better health. Victory joined one of six programs shared through the health department’s new Fresh Start campaign, found at freshstart.alaska.gov.
- All programs are free for participants.
- Many programs match you with a coach so you don’t have to do it alone.
- Many can be completed online, over the phone and at your pace— wherever you are in Alaska.
Victory completed the free online program to lose weight and lower her blood pressure. She received a free blood pressure cuff, bathroom scale, and short weekly readings. She could chat with a coach and high blood pressure specialist for help. She lost 15 pounds and lowered her blood pressure with medication, brief meditations, and changes to what she ate and how she moved.
Allen of North Pole said his doctor recommended that he complete the telephone program to lose weight and prevent diabetes. Allen, now 75 years old, said it was important that the program was free because he’s retired and living without an income. He received a free bathroom scale and a binder with short weekly readings. He scheduled regular phone calls with his coach, who lived in Homer. In one year, Allen lost almost 60 pounds, lowered his blood sugar to a healthy level, and worked with his doctor to cut back on medications to manage blood pressure and cholesterol.
At age 74, Allen of North Pole completed a Fresh Start program offered by phone. In one year,
he lost almost 60 pounds and lowered his blood sugar to a healthy level.
Last year, Kristina of Anchorage went to the doctor to have blood tests. Her blood sugar level was the highest it had ever been. She met with a nutrition specialist who recommended she join the free online program to better manage her diabetes and blood pressure. She lost 50 pounds and returned her blood sugar and blood pressure to healthy levels.
Kristina of Anchorage joined a Fresh Start program online to lower her blood sugar and blood pressure.
She encouraged her husband, Pete, to enroll. They’ve lost more than 100 pounds together.
During the program, Allen felt better as he changed what he ate and added steps to his daily walks. Spending time with his grandkids outside became easier. He enjoyed life more. Allen knows the Fresh Start programs can help more Alaskans.
“If you’re having doubts, my advice would be this: It’s free. It’s not going to cost you a nickel,” he said. “You’ve got somebody to work with you to encourage you on the way. You’re not doing this alone.”
“This was a step I took to do something, and it worked.”
Thousands have joined. Are you ready?
Kristina heard about one of the Fresh Start programs a year ago in December. The end of December is when many of us plan a restart for the coming year. Two out of three Alaska adults have at least one ongoing chronic disease or related behavior that doesn’t make them feel great every day. Alaskans setting a New Year’s Resolution to feel better in 2023 can find a program through Fresh Start that’s right for them — no matter if it’s losing weight, moving more, lowering blood sugar, lowering blood pressure, or quitting tobacco use or vaping.
It’s not too late.
You’re not too old.
You don’t have to rearrange your schedule to make these programs work. You complete them your way, on your time, wherever you are.
“I’m just so happy this program popped up when it did,” Victory said. “It definitely saved my life.”
Free programs that are flexible for you
Victory had to be able to do a health program on the go. The flight attendant chose a Fresh Start program done all online.
“I don’t work a 9-to-5 job. I don’t have a set week,” Victory said. “My life is very inconsistent, so this works better for me because I can check in on my time when it works for me, as opposed to having to go to a group.”
Joining an online program meant she could do the program’s weekly readings in the hotel where she’d stay on a layover. Those readings took only about 10 minutes and shared tips for cutting stress, moving more and eating better. She could weigh herself anywhere, with the scale syncing up to her phone so she and her coach could check her progress together. Victory said the online program was easy, had realistic goals and kept her accountable for making healthy changes.
The online program also worked best for Kristina. She works several days each week at Red Dog Mine, which means regular flights to and from her Anchorage home. Participating in an all-online health program meant she could chat with her coach, whether she was home in Anchorage or in her living quarters at the mine. She could log onto the program wherever she was, any time of day, to read the weekly readings that she said reminded her of healthier choices to make. During the program, she set an activity goal of 100 miles walked each month.
“I’m not restricted to certain times,” she said about completing the program. “I’m not restricted at all. To me, that flexibility was really nice for my lifestyle.”
Fresh Start programs — results now and later
Participants of Fresh Start programs say they signed up to feel better now, but the benefits they got went further. Victory knew she felt stressed but was surprised when she started the online program and all of her blood pressure readings were over 160. The goal is for that number to be 120 or lower.
“This was a serious wake-up call that the stress and not taking care of myself was literally killing me,” she said.
Victory needed to stay healthy for years to come, for herself, her husband and 10-year-old daughter. She significantly lowered her blood pressure over the yearlong program.
Victory and Kristina have encouraged friends and family members to join the free Fresh Start programs. Kristina felt so good after joining the online program that she asked her husband, Pete, to enroll. He did and has lost 60 pounds. Kristina and Pete are featured in a new short video to share the Fresh Start programs with Alaskans. Kristina said she wanted good health for both of them, right now. But she wanted something more for later.
“I really want to get healthier so I can have more years with you,” she told her husband.
After years of not feeling great, Kristina said she believes they’re starting over.
“Why didn’t I do this sooner?” she asked.
Ready for change? Visit freshstart.alaska.gov to find the free program that’s right for you or someone you know.
Ready for change? Visit freshstart.alaska.gov to find free programs for better health.
Thousands of Alaskans have joined. Are you ready? Contact email@example.com questions about the campaign and to request materials.
Article submitted by the Alaska Department of Health.
Karol Fink, MS, RDN | State of Alaska | Division of Public Health | Section Chief, Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion