Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Geography

Committee Chair

Dr. Christiane von Reichert

Commitee Members

Dr. Sarah J. Halvorson, Dr. Kari Harris


Access Theory, Alaska, Geographic Isolation, Health Care, Qualitative


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Health Services Research | Human Geography | Other Public Health


Alaska, often referred to as “The Last Frontier”, is a vast, geographically diverse and sparsely settled landscape. Although many popular reality shows tend to exaggerate and dramatize life in Alaska, they do point to an important fact: when an emergency occurs, or someone experiences serious health complications, immediate access to sufficient medical services may not be available. Much of the state’s population faces barriers to accessing needed medical care due to large distances between communities and limited road networks due to coastal locations or challenging terrain.

Using Penchansky and Thomas’s five components of Access Theory (1981), this thesis explores factors that influence access to local medical services and emergency air transportation in Southeast Alaska. Interviews with local health care providers and medevac personnel, field observations, and other qualitative data sources were used to answer the following questions: 1) How does access to health care services vary between rural communities and the regional center in Southeast Alaska? and 2) What role does emergency air transport play in facilitating access to health care services in the Southeastern region?

The study found that within the service hierarchy of the Southeast Alaska medical system, the availability of services, particularly certain specialists, was the biggest factor in access to health care. Also, despite the high cost, medevac services provide an increasingly vital role in the health care system.


© Copyright 2018 Kourtney B. Johnson