Journal of Cancer Education

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 500–505 | Cite as

Engaging Elements of Cancer-Related Digital Stories in Alaska

  • Melany CuevaEmail author
  • Regina Kuhnley
  • Laura Revels
  • Nancy E. Schoenberg
  • Anne Lanier
  • Mark Dignan


The tradition of storytelling is an integral part of Alaska Native cultures that continues to be a way of passing on knowledge. Using a story-based approach to share cancer education is grounded in Alaska Native traditions and people’s experiences and has the potential to positively impact cancer knowledge, understandings, and wellness choices. Community health workers (CHWs) in Alaska created a personal digital story as part of a 5-day, in-person cancer education course. To identify engaging elements of digital stories among Alaska Native people, one focus group was held in each of three different Alaska communities with a total of 29 adult participants. After viewing CHWs’ digital stories created during CHW cancer education courses, focus group participants commented verbally and in writing about cultural relevance, engaging elements, information learned, and intent to change health behavior. Digital stories were described by Alaska focus group participants as being culturally respectful, informational, inspiring, and motivational. Viewers shared that they liked digital stories because they were short (only 2–3 min); nondirective and not preachy; emotional, told as a personal story and not just facts and figures; and relevant, using photos that showed Alaskan places and people.


Digital storytelling Storytelling Cancer communication Community cancer education Alaska Native Indigenous research Cancer education materials Digital storytelling as adult education Digital storytelling as health promotion Cancer-related digital stories Community focus groups 



The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium received support from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R21CA163163 in September 2013. The award funded research to increase understanding of digital storytelling as a culturally respectful and meaningful way for Alaska’s village-based community health workers (CHWs) to create and share cancer prevention and screening messages with Alaska’s communities. Co-funding for this 2-year award was provided by the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences and from the Office of Disease Prevention. Thank you to Alaska’s community health workers who created their personal cancer-related digital story as a powerful health messaging tool.


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Copyright information

© American Association for Cancer Education 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melany Cueva
    • 1
    Email author
  • Regina Kuhnley
    • 1
  • Laura Revels
    • 2
  • Nancy E. Schoenberg
    • 3
  • Anne Lanier
    • 4
  • Mark Dignan
    • 5
  1. 1.Community Health Aide ProgramAlaska Native Tribal Health ConsortiumAnchorageUSA
  2. 2.Clinical and Research ServicesAlaska Native Tribal Health ConsortiumAnchorageUSA
  3. 3.Marion Pearsall Professor of Behavioral Science, 125 Medical Behavioral Science BuildingUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  4. 4.Alaska Native Tribal Health ConsortiumAnchorageUSA
  5. 5.Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of Kentucky College of MedicineLexingtonUSA

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