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American Cancer Society and Native Americans – teaming up to fight cancer

When the American Cancer Society and Native American communities team up, good things can happen. And one of the best things to happen lately is the new cancer education material that’s coming out.

For too long, health education materials have been written with only one audience in mind – mainstream white. That’s because just one side was creating the materials.

But the American Cancer Society has made it a priority to think differently. To enlist the help of people within the culture to create the materials, in order to make materials more interesting, more culturally appropriate and more relevant to the community.

“There’s a recognition that one size does not fit all when we’re talking about cancer education,” said Dr. Don Warne, ACS Midwest Division board member for South Dakota. “In order to be as effective as possible with educational materials, there has to be culturally appropriate development of those materials. The American Cancer Society already has a track record of doing exactly that.”

The American Cancer Society’s newest colon cancer brochure, “Honor the gift of health,” was designed by ACS and the Minnesota Intertribal Colorectal Cancer Council. This 10-page pamphlet recognizes that cancer has now become the most common reason tribal elders make their spirit journey before their time – even more common than heart disease. The brochure also encourages tribal elders to make cancer screening more readily available to their communities, acknowledging that many Native Americans are afraid of cancer and therefore avoid medical screenings altogether. “Honor the gift of health” features stories and insights from Native American survivors who have successfully battled cancer.

Last year, the society worked with Native Americans in South Dakota to create a DVD, “Native American Women Breast Cancer Awareness.” It features Native women sharing their stories about breast cancer and urging other women to get screened because early detection saves lives. Native Americans were involved in every step of the process – as spokespersons, scriptwriters and producers. Since its release last year, requests for the DVD have come in from 18 states.

The DVD is available nationwide for tribal leaders at no cost. A clip of the video can be viewed on YouTube. So far, the YouTube clip has had more than 3,300 hits.

For more information on “Honor the Gift of Health,” the colon cancer brochure, or the “Native American Women Breast Cancer Awareness” DVD, visit, or call the American Cancer Society at (800) 227-2345.

It’s our goal to continue to partner in order to create more culturally appropriate health materials with a focus on keeping Native Americans healthy and knowledgeable about cancer.

Feel free to reach out to us with ideas on other health communications you think we should be doing together. We’re listening.

At ACS, our vision is a world with less cancer and more birthdays. As part of that vision, we are fighting cancer in every community, for every family, to help save lives. We recognize each community has different needs and we’re here to help everyone stay well and get well, to find cures, and to fight back against cancer. For cancer information, contact us at or (800) 227-2345.

Charlotte Hofer is public relations manager for the American Cancer Society in South Dakota. She is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and her work for ACS focuses on cancer education to diverse populations through the media. Contact her at Follow us on Twitter at