Cancer is the leading cause of mortality among Alaska Native people. Over half of Alaska Native people live in rural communities where specially trained community members called Community Health Aides/Practitioners (CHA/Ps) provide health care. In response to CHA/Ps’ expressed desire to learn more about cancer, four 5-day cancer education and digital storytelling courses were provided in 2014. Throughout each course, participants explored cancer information, reflected on their personal experiences, and envisioned how they might apply their knowledge within their communities. Each course participant also created a personal and authentic digital story, a methodology increasingly embraced by Indigenous communities as a way to combine storytelling traditions with modern technology to promote both individual and community health. Opportunities to learn of CHA/Ps’ experiences with cancer and digital storytelling included a 3-page end-of-course written evaluation, a weekly story-showing log kept for 4 weeks post-course, a group teleconference held 1–2 weeks post-course, and a survey administered 6 months post-course. Participants described digital storytelling as a culturally respectful way to support cancer awareness and education. Participants described the process of creating digital stories as supporting knowledge acquisition, encouraging personal reflection, and sparking a desire to engage in cancer risk reduction activities for themselves and with their families and patients. As a result of creating a personalized digital story, CHA/Ps reported feeling differently about cancer, noting an increase in cancer knowledge and comfort to talk about cancer with clients and family. Indigenous digital stories have potential for broad use as a culturally appropriate health messaging tool.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in International Journal of Indigenous Heath, v. 11, issue 1, p. 34-49.

Copyright © 2016 Melany Cueva, Regina Kuhnley, Anne Lanier, Mark Dignan, Laura Revels, Nancy E. Schoenberg, Katie Cueva

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium received support from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award no. R21CA163163 in September 2013. Co-funding for this 2-year award was provided by the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences and from the Office of Disease Prevention.