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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Maryland Cancer Prevention Activities

The University of Maryland School of Public Health has a variety of community-based intervention programs designed to prevent cancer through education and the promotion of screening behaviors to increase early cancer detection, with a particular focus on racial and ethnic minorities disproportionately impacted by cancer. Among them:

The Maryland Center for Health Equity, in partnership with CIGNA, is designing health promotion initiatives in barbershops and beauty salons in Prince George’s County, Maryland which encourage colorectal cancer screening and awareness among African-Americans. Led by Dr. Stephen B. Thomas (director of M-CHE) and Dr. Mary A. Garza (associate director of M-CHE), the project builds on their track record of mobilizing barbershops and beauty salons as locales for health promotion and disease prevention activities within the community. They will train barbers and hair stylists as Lay Health Advocates to educate their clientele about colorectal cancer and the importance of getting screened. “Family history, personal history and race are among the common risk factors for colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Garza, principal investigator for the project. “So in addition, M-CHE will train genetic counselors to conduct family health histories on site with customers.” They are exploring a partnership with a regional gastroenterology practice that would provide colonoscopies to those participating in the HAIR program, and the nearby Doctor’s Community Hospital has already agreed to provide screening kits for distribution in barbershops that will be analyzed by their clinical team and followed up as appropriate. Link:

The CHAMP (Community Health Awareness, Messages, & Prevention) program, led by Dr. Cheryl Holt, associate professor in the department of behavioral and community health, includes several community-based projects that aim to increase cancer early detection in and around Prince George’s County, Maryland with an emphasis on faith-based communities. In March, Dr. Holt and her team members working on the M-PACT project (Men’s Prostate Awareness Church Training) and Project HEAL (Health through Early Awareness) will present their most recent research activities at the American Society of Preventive Oncology.  The M-PACT team will present their current findings relating to prostate cancer decision making among African American men using a health workshop series. From baseline to follow-up, results suggest that involving a partner (wife/partner, daughter, sister, or friend) in the men’s workshop format may increase the likelihood of certain positive screening behaviors. The team members involved in Project HEAL — an implementation trial focusing on breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer early detection — will present their findings that suggest a web-based training for lay Community Health Advisors (CHAs) may be an effective method to increase cancer knowledge and screening behaviors.  Project HEAL saw a significant increase in knowledge among enrolled participants from baseline to post-workshop.  Each project highlights the importance of utilizing community-based participatory research methods to deliver effective prevention messages to minority communities. Funding for the CHAMP projects comes from the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Projects led by Dr. Sunmin Lee, associate professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics, are designed to improve cancer prevention, screening, and survivorship rates in Asian communities. Her efforts to educate Asian communities about liver cancer and reduce disparities have been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. She has reached Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese communities in the Baltimore-Washington area through the use of lay health workers and the development of culturally tailored materials including videos and comic books, translated into native languages, which are designed to increase liver cancer awareness and hepatitis B virus screening and to improve cancer survival rates.

She and her team are also conducting a CDC-funded project to understand colorectal cancer screening behaviors among Chinese and Korean Americans and to learn about strategies to increase screening for this disease, which is the second leading cancer killer among Asian Americans. Their findings will be used to used to develop future interventions to increase screening, especially incorporating culturally and linguistically appropriate strategies into communication messages, community outreach and education, and environmental and system changes to increase screening rates among Chinese and Korean American population.

She also has several projects related to improving survivorship and quality of life among Korean and Chinese women with breast cancer through culturally and linguistically appropriate interventions to provide support to these women who may lack information to help them navigate through the difficult experience of breast cancer.