New health center addresses disparities among Native Americans

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Native Americans have higher rates of lung, colorectal, liver, stomach, and kidney cancer diagnoses compared to non-Hispanic White people in the U.S., but, thanks to a $4 million award from the American Cancer Society, Northern Arizona University hopes to make that a thing of the past. The newly funded Center for Native American Cancer Health Equity (C-NACHE) will take a multi-disciplinary approach to investigate both why that is and how best to address the health disparity. C-NACHE researchers will collaborate with tribal communities to increase screening rates and education among Indigenous populations, through targeted advisory boards, forums and a unique cancer-specific educational website.

Nicolette Teufel-Shone, Associate Director for the Center for Health Equity Research, joined Ted to discuss the center.

“Right now, cancer is not really addressed at either a national or state level for American Indian communities,” said Teufel-Shone. “There’s really only two tribes in Arizona that have cancer prevention and screening and care programs, and the other 20 tribes in the state don’t have any resources to provide any kind of care, even get screening available.”

Often, Indigenous people in Arizona have to leave their communities to receive cancer treatment or screening, according to Teufel-Shone. C-NACHE hopes to help make cancer care more accessible.

“The intention of this funding is to try to understand what can be done on a policy level… to improve those resources,” said Teufel-Shone.

As noted by Teufel-Shone, C-NACHE aims to increase cancer awareness and education, in addition, to providing care resources.

“Most tribes here in Arizona, don’t have access to tribe specific data,” said Teufel-Shone. “So they don’t even know which cancers are the highest and the highest risk in their communities.”

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