24 Alaska Business | December 2017 www.akbizmag.com
ARE While SAD may affect more Alaskans than US residents in other locations, treatment options remain the same. Mažeika says new LED visors that provide more light exposure
than stationary lights and mood remedies for
mild cases may be effective. “For those who
are able, a trip south to Hawaii, California,
or Mexico can be powerfully restorative and
recharge the mood and energy batteries.”
At South Peninsula Hospital, employees
are encouraged to use SAD remedy lights,
which are a part of the employee wellness
reimbursement program. The hospital also
provides education on SAD through bulletin
boards and brochures, the latter of which is
shared through community locations. A hos-
pital physician even led a community SAD
presentation during a winter carnival event.
The seasonal disorder, which is often called
the winter blues or cabin fever, is just one of
several extreme winter related health issues
and potential dangers prompting many Alaskans to seek out medical help.
Winter Dangers: Recreational Injuries,
Frostbite, and Falls
On the list of winter dangers, along with
SAD, are hypothermia, frostbite, injuries
from snow-related recreational activities
such as snowboarding and skiing, boating
accidents, and even wildlife attacks.
The Alaska Department of Health and
Social Services doesn’t track SAD cases, as
the seasonal affliction falls within mental issues reporting and many SAD patients are
typically treated by private behavioral health
providers, according to Clinton Bennett, the
department’s media relations manager.
But the agency does track other extreme
winter-related treatments and traumas at
the state’s medical centers and hospitals.
Between 2012 and 2016 there was an annual
average of thirty-seven hypothermia and
frostbite cases, twenty-seven ski and snowboarding injuries, eight sledding-related injuries, and more than seventy snow machine
Not on that data list, however, is one of the
most common winter-related issues treated
by emergency room physicians—injuries due
to falls and slips on icy walkways and roadways.
“Winter in Alaska is cold, dark, and usually covered with ice and snow. For our patients, this increases the risk of slips and
falls,” says Sean Murphy, emergency management specialist/EMS liaison at Alaska Regional Hospital, based in Anchorage.
The potential for injury due to falls is
something the hospital’s staff deals with regularly during extreme winters, says Murphy.
“Our facilities, security, and contracted
maintenance work diligently to stay ahead of
winter-related hazards but cannot eliminate
all risks as we endure a winter season that can
last nearly half the year. In addition to maintaining the grounds, our facilities department offers free ice cleats to all hospital staff.”
Murphy says many of the hospital’s ER
visits are due to treacherous highways and
streets that residents deal with on a daily
basis during winter. “The roads are usually
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