Walking Forward Program addresses lung health for Native Americans

Local News

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — A group with Avera Health is trying to reduce the rates of cancer deaths among Native Americans.

It’s an illness that impacts many Native communities in the Black Hills — lung cancer.

Dr. Daniel Petereit says that research shows Northern Plains American Indians have the highest death rate from lung cancer in the U.S.

“What we identified two decades ago as a cancer treating physician is American Indians presenting to our clinic present with more advanced stages of cancer than non-native Americans,” Dr. Petereit said.

Dr. Petereit is a radiation oncologist at Monument Health. He says there are several reasons for the high death rate, including smoking, the lack of Low Dose CT scanning available and most recently COVID-19.

“Hopefully this will nudge at a national level for IHS to consider either providing LDCTs within Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River and Rosebud. As well as, allowing patients to come up here to have coverage,” Petereit, Founder of Walking Forward, said.

Dr. Daniel Warne is a physician and professor who is originally from the Pine Ridge Reservation. He says there are ways to approach this issue… including traditional tobacco use.

“Historically as tribes from this region, we use traditional tobacco called Ċanśaśa and it’s actually a blend of herbs including red willow and it’s not harmful,” Dr. Warne said.

CEO of Monument Health, Paulette Davidson, says it’s an issue that needs to be addressed now.

“As we look at what’s happening in our region with health care disparities and making sure that everyone has access to health care service that we talk about it, and we look at how to improve those services in our region,” Davidson said.

The Lung Health Symposium in Rapid City will be going on until Friday this week. A number of experts and speakers will be discussing cancer disparities and research among Native American communities.

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