Patient-Related Issues

The Wednesday AccrualNet Post (11-14-12) Native Americans: Vibrant Culture

Last Updated: Nov 15, 2012

Get acquainted with Native American and Alaska Indian people before introducing clinical trial participation.


Although they comprise less than 2% of the U.S. population, Native Americans and Alaska Natives have played a major role in every facet of American society -- from education to private industry, from the military to the fine arts. To celebrate and pay tribute to their rich culture and traditions that have contributed to the growth, development and achievements of this country, November has been declared Native American Heritage Month. In a presidential proclamation, President Obama renewed “our commitment to respecting each tribe's identity while ensuring equal opportunity to pursue the American dream.” Unfortunately, the American Indian and Alaska Native tribal nations and communities have long experienced poorer health status than other Americans. While the reasons for poor health are of course varied and complex, to some extent, the continuing health disparities of American Indians reflect their minimal representation in clinical research. Mistrust of unfamiliar non-Native health care providers, lack of endorsement of tribal elders, lack of acknowledgement of tribal customs and feeling stereotyped are among the barriers to clinical trial participation that have been consistently cited by focus groups and recruitment experts.  Before overcoming some of the clinical trial accrual barriers, we need to first initiate and establish relationships - human being to human being  - with tribal leaders and individuals who are part of this vibrant, living culture. Native American Heritage Month is an opportune time to start to become acquainted with and to honor the customs and values of the close to 600 distinct federally recognized tribes across the U.S.
AccrualNet has many resources for Native American Alaska Indian education and related clinical trial accrual insights. Here are a few resources to get started: An American Indian Physician; Connecting Complementary & Alternative Medicine and Traditional Native American Healing Practices and Developing cancer clinical trial resources for Native Americans. For a more complete list, enter “Native American” in the search field on the AccrualNet home page. And please share any resources you have found to be useful.  

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