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Keywords:

  • community health networks;
  • African-Americans;
  • cancer prevention and control;
  • education;
  • awareness;
  • collaboration;
  • community outreach;
  • rural population;
  • urban population;
  • screening

Abstract

Given the recent advances in cancer treatment, cancer disparity between whites and African-Americans continues as an unacceptable health problem. African-Americans face a considerable disparity with regard to cancer incidence, survival, and mortality when compared with the majority white population. On the basis of prior research findings, the Deep South Network (DSN) chose to address cancer disparities by using the Community Health Advisor (CHA) model, the Empowerment Theory developed by Paulo Freire, and the Community Development Theory to build a community and coalition infrastructure. The CHA model and empowerment theory were used to develop a motivated volunteer, grassroots community infrastructure of Community Health Advisors as Research Partners (CHARPs), while the coalition-building model was used to build partnerships within communities and at a statewide level. With 883 volunteers trained as CHARPs spreading cancer awareness messages, both African-Americans and whites showed an increase in breast and cervical cancer screening utilization in Mississippi and Alabama. In Mississippi, taking into account the increase for the state as a whole, the proportion that might be attributable to the CHARP intervention was 23% of the increase in pap smears and 117% of the increase in mammograms. The DSN has been effective in raising cancer awareness, improving both education and outreach to its target populations, and increasing the use of cancer screening services. The National Cancer Institute has funded the Network for an additional 5 years. The goal of eliminating cancer health disparities will be pursued in the targeted rural and urban counties in Mississippi and Alabama using Community-Based Participatory Research. Cancer 2006. © 2006 American Cancer Society.