Words Flying Through the Air’: Tribal Radio as a Health Information Resource for Rural American Indian Reservation Residents

Jana Wilbricht

PhD ’19, Communication Studies

Many American Indians and Alaska Natives living on rural Indian reservations in the U.S. experience significant health disparities, and the lack of public transportation, broadband Internet, telephone lines, and the small number of health clinics in the area, which are often far away, make accessing health information difficult.

In my community-based participatory research project, I will explore the role of tribal radio in providing access to accurate, culturally relevant health information for rural American Indian reservation residents. Tribal radio is a unique medium which plays a critical role in informing community members about health issues and encouraging prevention and treatment, thereby helping to reduce health disparities.

My community partners for this project are the radio stations KUYI, owned and operated by the Hopi Tribe in Arizona, and KYUK in Bethel, Alaska, the first radio station in the U.S. to be owned and operated by an American Indian tribe (the Yup’ik).

My mixed-methods approach will include individual interviews with key stakeholders at each station, focus groups with local listeners, a content analysis of health-related programming on each station, and a survey sent to all U.S. tribal radio stations. Results from this study will help us understand and improve health information dissemination on rural Indian reservations. It will also provide station managers with insights gained from the focus groups, and directly applicable health communication strategies.

Library Mentor: Judy Smith