The American Cancer Society’s largest grant award this year in Maryland, $1.667 million, was awarded to Dr. Cheryl L. Holt of the UMD School of Public Health to study integrated cancer health activities in African American churches.
The grant is part of $3.8 million in new grants awarded by the ACS in Maryland that began July 1.
Dr. Holt’s proposed project will evaluate the effectiveness of two different cancer education strategies: the standard program, Project HEAL (Health through Early Awareness and Learning), which involves three cancer early-detection workshops, and an integrated approach to Project HEAL, in which the program is weaved into the church’s organizational structure and practice. Researchers will determine whether this “integrated approach” results in more effective and sustained cancer education and screening activities at both the church and individual levels over time.
“Since churches have a historical and ever-growing role in health promotion particularly among African Americans, they are an ideal place to reach this group for cancer education,” said Dr. Holt, director of the Center for Health Behavior Research and professor of behavioral and community health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. “In a climate of limited resources, identifying sustainable and effective ways to increase cancer awareness and screening in African American men and women is more important than ever.”
Researchers will randomly choose 14 churches to conduct either the standard Project HEAL program or an integrated Project HEAL strategy, in which the churches build the program into their organization in multiple ways, such as allocating volunteer or paid staff, space, or funds; policy change; or ministry development.
The project will be conducted in three phases and outcomes will be evaluated at both the individual and the church level.