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Episode #250 From Kinesiology To Public Health, with LaRita Laktonen-Ward, MPH


On This Episode Of The Public Health Epidemiology Conversations (PHEC) Podcast


Today’s guest on Public Health Epidemiology Conversations is LaRita Laktonen-Ward, the Program Manager for the Coordinating Center at Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country (GHWIC). GHWIC is a CDC program focusing on improving the health of American Indians and Alaskan Natives through four key strategies; heart disease prevention, diabetes prevention, commercial tobacco cessation, and nutrition and exercise promotion. Although LaRita has only been in her current position for two months, her education in exercise science, her experience as a coach and a teacher, and her passion for connecting people through knowledge make her very well equipped for the job! To hear more about LaRita’s background, what led her to the field of public health, and whether a career in public health is for you, make sure to tune in today!


Meet LaRita Laktonen-Ward


LaRita is the Senior Program Manager for the Coordinating Center for Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country (CCG). LaRita holds an MPH and a BS in Kinesiology with a minor in Indian Education. LaRita is Alutiiq from the Native Village of Larsen Bay on Kodiak Island.


Listen To This Episode Of The Public Health Epidemiology Conversations (PHEC) Podcast

Conversation Highlights


  • Insight into LaRita’s upbringing and how it motivated her to choose her current career path.

  • Important lessons she has learned through being a professional natural bodybuilder.

  • An overview of her career and what led her to pursue a masters in public health.

  • Understanding what LaRita’s current role entails.

  • How her exercise science education has assisted her as a public health professional.

  • Contributing factors to the high levels of heart disease and obesity among American Indian communities.

  • The youth sports event that LaRita recently volunteered at.

  • LaRita shares some details about the Alaska Native Epidemiology Center.

  • GHWIC’s four main focal areas.

  • The importance of differentiating between ceremonial tobacco use and commercial use.

  • How LaRita thinks about epidemiology and the valuable role it plays in the work she does.

  • The broadness of the public health sector and her words of encouragement for those who are interested in pursuing a career in public health.


“[Alaskan Natives] have really good genetics. It’s a lot of our American culture, the food around us, and past traumas that have put us in this demographic of high heart disease, high obesity, and high diabetes rates.” — LaRita Laktonen-Ward

Keep In Touch


Alaska Native Epidemiology Center

Good Health and Wellness in Indian Country

Alaska Native Epidemiology Center


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