Native Village
Youth and Education news
October 2010 Volume 3

Research project shows importance of Native American involvement in cancer education
Condensed by Native Village

South Dakota: The rate of cervical cancer in Northern Plains tribes is 200% - 300% higher than the general population. Now, research sponsored by the America Cancer Society is showing the importance of cultural involvement in Native American cancer education.

The project, which involves the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, shows that storytelling and visual arts are especially  effective in educating Native Americans.

Dr. Delf Schmidt-Grimminger is professor and a scientist at the Avera Research Institute.  He is working to increase awareness and prevention of cervical cancer among tribes.

“Brochures that provide the same basic information will not work in every community," he said. "We have to be a lot
more sensitive to cultural diversity and incorporate different ideas and traditions to promote health.”

One of his ideas involves using art as a way to tell a story about cancer prevention. He and Chholing Taha, a Cree/Iroquois artist, are creating a piece of art about cervical cancer screening and HPV prevention.

“There are 10 hands in the picture; four of them have circles, which represent the HPV virus,” Schmidt-Grimminger said. “The small dots around the virus represent anti-bodies that fight the virus, and promote good health.”

The art can be used as a template for other tribes or artists to fill in their own tribe's colors and symbolism.  Schmidt-Grimminger thinks the art could also be shared in other places:  health clinics, community centers,  schools -- even in non-Native populations.

“I’d say 70 percent of the success of the project is directly attributed to Native American involvement,” Schmidt-Grimminger said. “The community steers us in the right direction and guides us.”

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