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Health Disparities Research Center awards pilot grants for 2 new public health projects

Two community nonprofits, one focused on breast health and another promoting health education, are the latest recipients of pilot grants from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Health Disparities Research Center, or HDRC.

The Carol Milgard Breast Center, based in Tacoma, received an $8,000 grant to conduct research to help overcome barriers to good breast health within the Hispanic-Latina community of Pierce County. The Binaytara Foundation, based in Bellingham, received an $8,000 grant to raise the profile of cancer health disparities via a two-day summit and a national task force.

Each year, the HDRC invites community groups to the Hutch campus to participate in a two-day grant-writing workshop and vie for funding. Designed to better understand and eliminate the issues that prevent at-risk populations from leading longer and healthier lives, the workshops empower the groups to design and implement interventions that will specifically speak to the needs of minorities, gays, non-English speakers, the elderly and others. Grant recipients then work with mentors from Fred Hutch and the University of Washington to carry out their proposed research. Funding comes from Fred Hutch and the National Cancer Institute.

”We know there are cancer health disparities in our service area, but we can’t tackle them on our own,” said HDRC community health educator Kathy Briant. “Establishing partnerships with these community-based organizations through the community grants program is one small step to building capacity for more coordinated efforts in achieving health equity across the region.”

Better breast health for Latinas

Briant said four nonprofits participated in the workshops this year, which have proved an effective means to get public health messages out to underserved communities.

“We have repeatedly heard about the importance of culturally and linguistically appropriate educational materials to help patients understand information about cancer screening and prevention,” she said.

The Carol Milgard Breast Center project, led by CMBC financial aid coordinator Kendra Lopez and facilitated by Fred Hutch mentor Dr. Rachel Ceballos, will do just that, tackling the high cancer burden and low screening rates among Latina women in Pierce County.

“Currently, our outreach efforts in the African-American community are making great strides in increasing the knowledge of breast health and education regarding screening recommendations,” the group wrote in its proposal. “Our goal now is to expand our outreach efforts to engage Latinas who because of social aspects and cultural barriers are at great risk of not adhering to screening guidelines.”

To this end, the HDRC will work to establish a partnership with the Latina community to increase breast health awareness. Through Spanish language educational materials, surveys and questionnaires and one-on-one interviews, they hope to educate Latinas age 40 and older regarding the risks associated with breast cancer and empower these women to take control over their non-hereditary cancer risks by, for example, encouraging smoking cessation and increased exercise. Ultimately the goal is to improve screening rates and reduce cancer risk and incidence in the region.

”It’s exciting that a breast center is taking the initiative to work with the Hispanic community to learn about how to best engage women from this community in breast health awareness,” Briant said.   

Dr. Beti Thompson works with Aaron Weinberg and Bryli Blankenship from the Binaytara Foundation at the HDRC grant-writing workshop.

Dr. Beti Thompson works with Aaron Weinberg and Bryli Blankenship from the Binaytara Foundation at a recent HDRC grant-writing workshop.

Photo by Norma Mariscal / Fred Hutch

Measuring health disparities knowledge

The Binaytara Foundation, which works to reduce cancer health disparities in the U.S. and elsewhere, will focus on its forthcoming 2018 Summit on National and Global Cancer Health Disparities. Led by oncologist Dr. Binay Shah and mentored by HDRC Associate Director Dr. Beti Thompson, the group will assess the response to its summit, which will tackle issues such as inherent bias, stereotype threats, high health care costs and poor follow-up health care communication.

“Because of disparity issues many disenfranchised Americans, such as those with low education, the poor, and minority groups, are unable to receive the best possible care despite constant breakthroughs in cancer research and the release of new drugs,” Shah wrote in his proposal. “These groups are left with worse outcomes than their counterparts. In the richest and most technologically advanced nation in the history of the world, this is inexcusable.”

The Binaytara Foundation will evaluate participants’ knowledge of health disparities before the summit then follow up with two tests afterward. One will evaluate caregivers’ intent to modify practice and the other, conducted several weeks later, will measure actual practice change. The project also will create a cancer disparities task force.

“The Summit’s purpose is to educate stakeholders across the spectrum of health care delivery including doctors, nurses, health care executives, industry executives, insurance executives, lawmakers and others,” Shah said. “This population was chosen because it has the ability to decrease cancer health disparities and directly benefit the patient.”  

Thompson, who launched the workshop program five years ago, was enthusiastic about the Foundation’s proposal.

“As health professionals, we often go to conferences and seminars to learn about best practices in our fields of study,” she said. “We often leave with good intentions to apply what we learned into our practice, but it doesn’t always work out that way. It’s motivating to see the Binaytara Foundation think this through to look at how knowledge gained at a health disparities conference may influence actual changes in one’s practice in working toward health equity.”

Promoting ‘citizen science’

All in all, the HDRC program is designed to break down barriers and promote “citizen science.”

“Our goal is to help community members develop and strengthen their ability to apply for grants and successfully implement the work they propose,” Thompson said. “We have past grantees who’ve had significant findings in their projects and have gone on to present at professional conferences and publish a manuscript. It is really exciting and rewarding to see this type of progress among grantees.”

Past HDRC grant recipients include the Somali Health Board, the Urban Indian Health Institute, El Centro de la Raza, Cierra Sisters, Gay City, Mount Zion Baptist Church, Entre Hermanos, Gilda’s Club, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, Cornerstone Medical Services, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, National Asian Pacific Center on Aging and Komen Puget Sound.

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