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Fred Hutch provides money and mentorship to four local community health organizations to help build their capacity for health-disparities research - Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Projects range from promoting mammograms to preventing stomach cancer
Beti Thompson, Ph.D.
Beti Thompson, Ph.D., is a member of the Public Health Sciences Division and director of the Health Disparities Research Center at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Photo credit: Bo Jungmayer/Fred Hutch file

SEATTLE – April 1, 2014 – Reducing fears around and promoting mammograms in African-American women … tending the emotional and social needs of kids whose lives have been touched by cancer … fostering leadership development among HIV-positive Latinos … increasing awareness of stomach-cancer prevention in Asian-Americans.

The above initiatives,  all proposed by four nonprofit Seattle-area community-health organizations via a grant-writing workshop sponsored by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, have been selected to receive funding from Fred Hutch – as well as mentorship and technical support from Hutch faculty and staff – over the next year to help build their capacity for health-disparities research.

In addition to offering a grant-writing workshop linked to a request for applications, Fred Hutch faculty and staff donated their time to help mentor workshop participants as they wrote their proposals and provided peer review for the submitted grant applications.

“Going forward we’ll also help the grantees develop the tools they need to measure the impact of their work and, eventually, help with the analysis of their data,” said Beti Thompson, Ph.D., a member of the Public Health Sciences Division and director of the Health Disparities Research Center at Fred Hutch, which is coordinating the effort.

Below are descriptions of the projects.

Kerryn Reding and Bridgette Hempstead
Bridgette Hempstead, founder of Cierra Sisters Inc. (right) with her mentor, Kerryn Reding, Ph.D., joint assistant member of the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutch. Photo credit: Bo Jungmayer/Fred Hutch file

Reducing fears around and promoting mammograms in African-American women

This project, being conducted by Cierra Sisters Inc., a support organization for African-American breast cancer survivors, aims to diminish fears concerning mammograms and increase mammography use among Seattle-area African-American women through an educational wellness festival, at which educational outreach from researchers and physicians and access to mobile mammography services will be available. The effectiveness of the event in allaying mammography fears and encouraging mammography use will be assessed through baseline and follow-up surveys of festival participants.

“We anticipate women will leave the festival with diminished fears about mammography. Some may even become enthusiastic about having a mammogram and others will obtain previously unscheduled mammograms at the event,” said Bridgette Hempstead, founder of Cierra Sisters Inc., who is also a breast cancer survivor.

Serving the emotional and social needs of children affected by cancer

While there is evidence of high levels of anxiety and depression among those with childhood cancers, few studies have looked at the emotional impact of cancer on children with a family member currently diagnosed with or deceased from cancer. Even fewer studies have evaluated interventions to help alleviate cancer’s emotional impact on such children. This project will evaluate whether attending Camp Sparkle, a week-long summer camp run by Gilda’s Club Seattle, improves emotional health in children whose lives have been touched by cancer. Conducted in collaboration with Rachel Ceballos, Ph.D., an assistant member of the Fred Hutch Public Health Sciences Division, the study will compare pre- and post-camp levels of depression, anxiety, and social support among 80 camp attendees versus 40 children touched by cancer who choose not to attend camp.

“We hypothesize that post-camp emotional health scores will be higher compared to baseline in the intervention group,” Ceballos said. “Further, we anticipate that children with lower family income will show a greater improvement in emotional health after their camping adventure.”

Our collaboration with Fred Hutch offers a unique opportunity to ensure the future direction of Camp Sparkle meets the needs of all campers, especially those from lower-income families,” said Sally Benson, program director of Gilda’s Club Seattle, which offers social, emotional, and educational support for cancer survivors.

Marcos Martinez and Yamile Molina
Marcos Martinez, executive director of Entre Hermanos, with his mentor, Yamile Molina, Ph.D., a fellow in the Ceballos Studies Program in the Hutch Public Health Sciences Division. Photo credit: Bo Jungmayer/Fred Hutch file

Leadership development among HIV-positive Latinos

This project, conducted by Entre Hermanos, an organization that promotes the health and well-being of the Latino gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning community,  aims to gather data to help reveal factors, such as stigma, which contribute to the reluctance among HIV-positive Latinos to participate in leadership opportunities such as serving on representative groups and speaking in public on behalf of people with HIV. The project will conduct focus groups with HIV-positive Latinos and HIV health workers, including case managers and health educators. For the HIV-positive Latinos, the questions will focus on whether they have participated in leadership groups and their thoughts and feelings about such participation. The HIV health workers will be asked about their perceptions of client capacity for participating in leadership opportunities.

“The goal is to gather pilot data that will lead to a larger research project aimed at developing ways to facilitate participation of HIV-positive Latinos in leadership opportunities,” said Marcos Martinez, executive director of Entre Hermanos. “Another possible outcome will be that HIV-positive focus group participants will consider participating in leadership opportunities as a result of their participation in the study.”

Making stomach cancer prevention a priority among Asian-Americans

Evidence suggests that stomach cancer is a serious problem among Asian-Americans. Given the projected increase in population growth among Asian-Americans in Washington state, this may pose a significant public health problem without an adequate plan for prevention through education and early screening. This project, conducted by Cornerstone Medical Services, will measure the effectiveness of an educational forum about stomach cancer prevention and early detection. A pre-and post-event survey among event participants will help determine what aspects of the intervention were most effective.

“Because this is the first stomach cancer summit in Washington state, we hope to identify effective communications strategies that empower policy makers and Asian-Americans to take the first step toward designing a stomach cancer prevention program,” said Suzanne Pak, chief operating officer of Cornerstone Medical Services.

The funding to get these small projects off the ground was made possible by a grant from the National Cancer Institute to Fred Hutch.

Kristen Woodward