183814 Using the American Indian and Alaska Native oral tradition to record family health history

Monday, October 27, 2008: 1:30 PM

Meghan Jernigan, MPH , Urban Indian Health Institute, Seattle Indian Health Board, Seattle, WA
Maile Taualii, PhD , Native Hawaiian EPI Center, Papa Ola Lokahi, Honolulu, HI
Shelby Wilson, RD , Urban Indian Health Institute, Seattle Indian Health Board, Seattle, WA
Alice Park, MPH , Urban Indian Health Institute, Seattle Indian Health Board, Seattle, WA
Ralph Forquera, MPH , Urban Indian Health Institute, Seattle Indian Health Board, Seattle, WA

American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) have used storytelling for generations to convey history and culture. Stories about family members, events, and lessons learned are key components of knowledge transfer. Health care providers have also used a form of storytelling; the family medical history. Unfortunately, these important and similar purposed storytelling processes are not inclusive of each other. Stigma exists in revealing personal health information in communities and families, and fears of discrimination make it difficult to discuss health issues. Individuals are unaware of the value of this information in preventing health problems and helping health professionals provide better care.


Evaluate the use of a Family Health History Awareness Tool by urban AI/AN, so that the tool is understandable by community members and useful to providers, as measured by successful dissemination and community acceptance.


A Community Advisory Board (CAB) was developed to guide the project and ensure all research procedures are respectful of privacy and community norms and values. Five diseases that disproportionally affect AI/AN families were included in the tool: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, cirrhosis, and depression. Using Social Learning Theory, urban AI/AN shared family health history stories and assessed whether the tool effectively captured meaningful risk information.


We discuss methods for using the tool in urban AI/AN communities and provide ideas on how AI/AN communities can help families record and recount their family health histories using this Native-specific tool. Storytelling is an important step in addressing health disparities.

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify storytelling as an important step in addressing health disparities. 2. Recognize the unique role of a Community Advisory Board in Community-Based Participatory Research with the urban AI/AN community. 3. Describe methods used to incorporate family health experiences and stories into an educational tool adapted for the urban AI/AN community.

Keywords: Native Americans, Community-Based Health Promotion

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I work for the Urban Indian Health Institute, have an MPH from Columbia University, coordinate the Family History project for UIHI, have run the analysis for the project, and have over 5 years experience in the field of public health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.