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Improving Cancer Screening in Minorities with Multiple Diseases is Goal of New $1M Study

By Lois Baker

Release Date: April 28, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A University at Buffalo researcher has received a two-year, $1 million Recovery Act grant from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities to develop a community-based partnership that motivates low-income minorities with chronic diseases to include cancer screening in their medical care.

Chronic disease is increasingly common in the U.S., and multiple chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and COPD that require multiple providers take a heavy toll, particularly in low-income communities where seeing a doctor, let alone various specialists, can be difficult.

In these situations, preventive cancer screening to diagnose yet another disease often falls by the wayside, which can contribute to poorer outcomes and greater disparities.

The new community-based participatory research project, called Patient Voices to Improve Primary Care, will involve researchers from UB's schools of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and Public Health and Health Professions, and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, along with two community-based organizations, two primary care practices and a team of patients with complex chronic conditions.

"We are very excited to work with providers and patients to design and implement a patient-centered intervention that is meaningful," says the project's principal investigator Laurene Tumiel-Berhalter, PhD, associate professor in the UB medical school's Department of Family Medicine and the department's vice chair of research.

"This project contributes to the development of the medical home and could provide a foundation for other work that brings providers, patients and researchers to the same table."

Building upon an established partnership of university and community collaborators, the project will assess barriers to, and motivators for, preventive cancer screening and will design a patient-driven intervention to incorporate cancer screening into chronic disease management.

This pilot study will create five new jobs for minorities in the community and lay the groundwork for a larger multi-year participatory research study.

The project's collaborators will develop a registry of patients with complex chronic disease for each study site that will document screening for colorectal, breast and cervical cancer, along with smoking cessation advice and treatment, and correlate this data with patients' diagnostic history and demographics. These statistics then will be compared to national screening rates.

Based on this data and on patients' opinions on factors that encourage or discourage cancer prevention screening, the study group will design a pilot cancer-prevention intervention that will be tested with patients with complex chronic disease from the surrounding low-income, predominately minority community.

The pilot intervention will be tested over a 12-month period with 200 patients recruited from the registry to gauge its ability to improve cancer prevention measures, compared to the baseline data. The researchers also will assess the impact of the intervention on participants' social support, active involvement in the study, self-management skills and quality of life.

Judith Anderson, executive director from Jericho Road Ministries and president of the Minority Health Coalition, is coprincipal investigator on the grant. Additional investigators are Linda Kahn, PhD, UB Department of Family Medicine; Elisa Rodriguez, PhD, UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, and Deborah Erwin, PhD, director of the Center for Health Disparities, Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

The study is being conducted with the collaboration of providers, staff and patients from Jericho Road Family Practice and Jefferson Family Practice.