Engaging Native American Students in Research Methodology through Development and Validation of a Tobacco Survey

  • Mangan Golden Center of American Indian and Minority Health, University of Minnesota Medical School
  • Patricia Conway
  • Catherine McCarty
  • Amy Versnik Nowak
  • Jessica Hanson
  • Desbah Begay
  • Maliyan Binette
  • Linn Birdchief
  • Fredrick Blaisdell
  • Ginearosa Carbone
  • Seth Culver
  • Teague Goodsky
  • ZhaaZhaa Greensky
  • Nizhoni Greyeyes
  • Joshua Henry
  • Quinton Impson
  • Cheyne Littlesun
  • Genevieve McGeshick
  • Dannah Nephew
  • Ty Running Fisher
  • Michael Spear
  • Leah Thompson
  • Mary Owen
Keywords: Native American, American Indian Alaska Native, Tobacco, validation, Student Research, Regional Medical Campus


Background:  The purpose of this project was to provide a learning experience for AIAN undergraduate students participating in a summer academic enrichment program, Native Americans into Medicine (NAM). Through NAM, operated by the Center of American Indian and Minority Health, students learned quantitative and qualitative research skills. They applied these skills through the development of a culturally relevant survey to measure commercial tobacco use in AIAN teens and analysis of the survey results.

Methods: In Phase/year 1, students learned qualitative research methods and interviewed participants of a regional Tribal community powwow to inform the cultural adaptation of the National Youth Tobacco Survey. In Phase/year 2, the students learned about quantitative research methods through the conduct of a cross-sectional study in which the survey was distributed to rural Minnesota schools to assess tobacco attitudes, use, intent to use, and factors influencing tobacco use in AIAN youth. NAM student participants then analyzed the survey data.  Benchmarks for student success included: development of a tool to assess tobacco use in AIAN youth, conduct of research study, and dissemination of research results.

Results:  At the pow wow in year 1, twenty-six youth ranging between 12 and 18 years of age who self-identified as AIAN were recruited to participate in cognitive interviews.  As a group, student researchers reviewed each survey question for possible revision and consideration for inclusion in the final survey. In year 2, completed surveys were obtained from 281 (15% of eligible) students from 5 schools; 256 surveys were usable. Thirty-one percent (N=80) students self-identified as AIAN; 56% were male. Students’ mean age was 15.8 years. Thirty-eight percent had ever tried cigarette smoking, even one or two puffs, and had ever vaped.  As a cohort, students presented research results to health directors and providers at 2 tribal clinics.

Discussion: In conclusion, this two-year cohort approach to teaching qualitative and quantitative research skills to AIAN students was successful by internal benchmarks, namely student researchers developed, implemented, and analyzed a survey appropriate for AIAN high school students, and all student researchers presented their research results at least once.


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