Bridging storytelling traditions with digital technology.
OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this project was to learn how Community Health Workers (CHWs) in Alaska perceived digital storytelling as a component of the "Path to Understanding Cancer" curriculum and as a culturally respectful tool for sharing cancer-related health messages. DESIGN: A pre-course written application, end-of-course written evaluation, and internet survey informed this project. METHODS: Digital storytelling was included in seven 5-day cancer education courses (May 2009-2012) in which 67 CHWs each created a personal 2-3 minute cancer-related digital story. Participant-chosen digital story topics included tobacco cessation, the importance of recommended cancer screening exams, cancer survivorship, loss, grief and end-of-life comfort care, and self-care as patient care providers. All participants completed an end-of-course written evaluation. In July 2012, contact information was available for 48 participants, of whom 24 completed an internet survey. RESULTS: All 67 participants successfully completed a digital story which they shared and discussed with course members. On the written post-course evaluation, all participants reported that combining digital storytelling with cancer education supported their learning and was a culturally respectful way to provide health messages. Additionally, 62 of 67 CHWs reported that the course increased their confidence to share cancer information with their communities. Up to 3 years post-course, all 24 CHW survey respondents reported they had shown their digital story. Of note, 23 of 24 CHWs also reported change in their own behavior as a result of the experience. CONCLUSIONS: All CHWs, regardless of computer skills, successfully created a digital story as part of the cancer education course. CHWs reported that digital stories enhanced their learning and were a culturally respectful way to share cancer-related information. Digital storytelling gave the power of the media into the hands of CHWs to increase their cancer knowledge, facilitate patient and community cancer conversations, and promote cancer awareness and wellness.