Evaluating arts-based cancer education using an internet survey among Alaska community health workers


Cancer, considered a rare disease among Alaska Native people as recently as the 1950s, surpassed heart disease in the 1990s to become the leading cause of mortality. In response to Alaska's village-based Community Health Workers' (CHWs) desire to learn more about cancer for themselves and the people in their communities, cancer education that incorporated the expressive arts of moving, drawing, and sculpting was developed, implemented, and evaluated. Arts-based education integrates the dynamic wisdom and experiences of Alaska Native people and western medical knowledge to share cancer information in a culturally respectful way. Between May 2009 and March 2013, 12 5-day courses that included arts activities to support cancer information were provided for 118 CHWs in Anchorage, AK, USA. A post-course internet survey was conducted in April 2013, to learn how arts-based cancer education affected participants' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Surveys were completed by 54 of the 96 course participants; 22 course participants were lost to follow-up. As a result of integrating the arts with cancer education, respondents reported an increase in their cancer knowledge and comfort with talking about cancer. Additionally, 82 % (44) of respondents described feeling differently about cancer. By integrating the arts with cancer information, participants reported healthy behavior changes for themselves (76 %), with their families (70 %), and in their work (72 %). The expressive arts of moving, drawing, and sculpting provided a creative pathway for diverse adult learners in Alaska to increase their cancer knowledge, comfort with talking about cancer, and wellness behaviors.

Alaska Native
Location Description: 

Alaska AK