Found in translation: Decoding local understandings of genetics and heredity in a Yup'ik Eskimo community

Public Underst Sci. 2013 Jan;22(1):80-90. doi: 10.1177/0963662510397224. Epub 2011 Mar 14.


The Center for Alaska Native Health Research is a community-based participatory research center that conducts studies involving genetic research with Yup'ik Eskimo community members in Southwest Alaska, where Yup'ik remains the first language for most residents. Cultural equivalents are needed to communicate results of these studies among all partners and members of the participating communities, since many scientific terms have no direct translation in Yup'ik. To inform that effort, we examined local understandings of genetics and heredity in one community. Here, we report results from back-translated Yup'ik interviews, and identify working genetic concepts shared by participants from interviews and focus groups. We suggest issues involved in, and some potential steps toward, developing a concise, scientifically accurate and culturally relevant term for "genetics" and other health concepts.

Keywords: Center for Alaska Native Health Research; Yup’ik Eskimo; back-translation; community-based participatory research; genetic concepts; public understanding of science; science communication.