Telenovela: An innovative colorectal cancer screening health messaging tool

Melany Cueva, Regina Kuhnley, Jozieta Slatton, Mark Dignan, Emily Underwood, Kate Landis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background. Alaska Native people have nearly twice the rate of colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence and mortality as the US White population. Objective. Building upon storytelling as a culturally respectful way to share information among Alaska Native people, a 25-minute telenovela-style movie, What's the Big Deal?, was developed to increase CRC screening awareness and knowledge, role-model CRC conversations, and support wellness choices. Design. Alaska Native cultural values of family, community, storytelling, and humor were woven into seven, 3-4 minute movie vignettes. Written post-movie viewing evaluations completed by 71.3% of viewers (305/428) were collected at several venues, including the premiere of the movie in the urban city of Anchorage at a local movie theater, seven rural Alaska community movie nights, and five cancer education trainings with Community Health Workers. Paper and pencil evaluations included check box and open-ended questions to learn participants' response to a telenovela-style movie. Results. On written-post movie viewing evaluations, viewers reported an increase in CRC knowledge and comfort with talking about recommended CRC screening exams. Notably, 81.6% of respondents (249/305) wrote positive intent to change behavior. Multiple responses included: 65% talking with family and friends about colon screening (162), 24% talking with their provider about colon screening (59), 31% having a colon screening (76), and 44% increasing physical activity (110). Conclusions. Written evaluations revealed the telenovela genre to be an innovative way to communicate colorectal cancer health messages with Alaska Native, American Indian, and Caucasian people both in an urban and rural setting to empower conversations and action related to colorectal cancer screening. Telenovela is a promising health communication tool to shift community norms by generating enthusiasm and conversations about the importance of having recommended colorectal cancer screening exams. #2013 Melany Cueva et al.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Circumpolar Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 5 2013


  • Alaska Native
  • Colorectal cancer screening
  • Community Health Workers
  • Health communication
  • Storytelling
  • Telenovela

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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