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Enhancing cancer education through the arts: building connections with Alaska Native people, cultures and communities

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Building upon the dynamic traditions of Alaska Native people, which include the arts as a viable way of knowing, the expressive arts were woven into a five-day cancer education course for Alaska village-based Community Health Workers (CHWs). Cancer is the leading cause of mortality for Alaska Native people. Course learning modalities included moving, drawing, sculpting and storytelling. A total of six cancer education courses were provided for 57 CHWs. During extended-interval post-course interviews, CHWs described the arts as a culturally traditional way of knowing and talked about how the arts expanded their perspectives, sparked creativity and imagination, freed/transformed emotions, made learning more memorable/more meaningful, infused learning with laughter, created community and broke the silence that often surrounds the topic of cancer in Alaska rural communities. The expressive arts empowered adult learners to explore new dimensions of knowledge, create deeper understandings and expand their perceptions of possibilities.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, Anchorage, Alaska

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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