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

Melany Cueva, Katie Cueva, Mark Dignan, Anne Lanier, Regina Kuhnley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-535
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cancer Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thank you to course participants who chose to learn more about cancer to support their health and the health of the people in their communities. We appreciate being part of your cancer education learning journey. This project is supported by a Mentored Research Scholar Award to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) from the American Cancer Society (“Developing Arts-Based Cancer Education with Alaska Native People”). Thank you to mentors Dr. Anne Lanier and Dr. Deborah Bowen and co-instructors Teresa Hicks and Laura Revels for their support. This manuscript was reviewed and approved by the ANTHC Health Research Review Committee (HRRC) on behalf of the ANTHC Board of Directors.


  • Alaska Native
  • Arts-based education
  • Arts-based research
  • Cancer education
  • Community Health Workers
  • Expressive arts
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Internet survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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