Although cancer death rates have been decreasing for the general population, they’ve been increasing for American Indians, according to the American Indian Cancer Foundation (AICAF). The AICAF cites a number of barriers to prevention and care, such as low awareness of risks, distrust of medical systems and research, health beliefs that may conflict with prevention practices, and low awareness of screening options.
The Northern Plains region has some of the highest rates of cancer diagnoses and death in the U.S. Colon cancer, for example, is 53% higher in Northern Plains American Indians, AICAF says. Although screening rates are improving, fewer than half of Northern Plains American Indians aged ≥ 50 years have had a colorectal cancer screening, according to the Association of American Indian Physicians.
The cancer mortality rates are the result of a “complex set of factors” that the AICAF is beginning to address with a comprehensive set of approaches. For instance, in addition to educating the public, AICAF, in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health and Get Your Rear in Gear Colon Cancer Coalition is putting money where its mouth is, with the “Refer-a-Relative” program.
“We are all related,” the campaign says: “Help your community and end colon cancer!” Refer-a-Relative encourages Native Americans in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area to get screened, and then to refer up to 5 relatives aged ≥ 50 years for screening. Patients receive a $20 gift card for completing screening, and $10 for each relative who completes screening. The relatives receive a $20 gift card and can refer more people.
The screening project is 1 branch of the AICAF’s interest in innovating clinical systems at IHS, Tribal, and Urban (ITU) clinics. Much of the work is based on the Improving Northern Plains American Indian Colorectal Cancer Screening (INPACS) project with ITU clinics. The AICAF invites interested ITU clinics to join the Clinical Cancer Screening Network. For more information, infographics, and other patient education materials, visit www.americanindiancancer.org.