Assessing Needs for Cancer Education and Support in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities in the Northwestern United States

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American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) experience significant cancer disparities. To inform future public health efforts, a web-based needs assessment survey collected quantitative and qualitative data from AI/AN community health workers and cancer survivors in the northwestern United States. Content analysis of qualitative responses identified themes to contextualize quantitative results. Seventy-six AI/AN respondents (93% female) described substantial unmet needs for education and resources to assist cancer survivors, including a shortage of patient navigators, support groups, and home health care workers. Fear of negative outcomes, a culturally rooted avoidance of discussing illness, and transportation difficulties were cited as major barriers to participation in cancer education and receipt of health services. Face-to-face contact was overwhelmingly preferred for community education and support, but many respondents were receptive to other communication channels, including e-mail, social media, and webinars. Survey results highlight the importance of culturally sensitive approaches to overcome barriers to cancer screening and education in AI/AN communities. Qualitative analysis revealed a widespread perception among respondents that available financial and human resources were insufficient to support AI/AN cancer patients’ needs.

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