UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine Fall 2015 - Page 12

outreach The disparate rate of cancer mortality for African- Americans compared to Caucasians spurred the creation of the Cancer Center’s flagship outreach program – the Deep South Network for Cancer Control (DSN), which recently celebrated its 15th year of funding. Originally funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 2000, the DSN was designed to build a community infrastructure to eliminate health disparities by increasing cancer awareness and screening rates among minorities and underserved populations. Since its inception, the network has targeted two poor rural regions – the Alabama Black Belt and the Mississippi Delta – and two urban areas – Alabama’s Jefferson County and Mississippi’s The disparate Hattiesburg/Laurel Metro. Initially focusing on breast and cervical cancers, DSN relied on a novel strategy to spread its director of the DSN. “For example, in the last African-Americans of each community, ranging from school teachers to guidelines for certain cancers, such as cervical cancer, Caucasians spurred factory workers to hairstylists – and trained them as community health advisors (CHAs) to educate their families, friends and neighbors about cancer. DSN eventually took the CHA model a step further and trained these volunteers as CHARPs – By JOSH TILL The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center has long been recognized as a community o utreach leader for its work in eliminating cancer health disparities among minority and underserved populations on local, national and even international levels. compared to 15 years, we’ve seen several changes in screening and we have been able to successfully take that information and keep the CHARPs informed and trained to convey those messages to their communities. That’s really the first love of our CHARPs.” For many citizens in the DSN’s targeted regions, Community Health Advisors Trained as Research the biggest concerns are education and access. The more than 1,500 people throughout Alabama and to teach them that cancer screenings are effective and Partners. In 15 years, the DSN staff has trained DEEP SOUTH NETWORK CELEBRATES 15 YEARS mortality for messages about prevention and early detection. It identified “natural helpers” – the trusted members Evolution of the CHAs rate of cancer Claudia Hardy, M.P.A. Mississippi as CHARPs, and those CHARPs have been extremely effective. Among the Medicare/ Medicaid population in DSN’s targeted areas, the disparity in mammography screening rates has decreased from 17 percent to .25 percent, thanks in large part to the efforts of the CHARPs. “Community outreach and education is the cornerstone and foundation of the Deep South Network,” says Claudia Hardy, M.P.A., program first step in educating the medically underserved is worthwhile. The other issue involved is access to care. Once the patient decides to have a screening, he or she is then faced with the dilemma of where to have the test and how to get there. If diagnosed with cancer, the creation of the Cancer Center’s flagship outreach program – the Deep South Network for Cancer Control (DSN), which recently celebrated its 15th year of funding. these patients often have to drive 50 or 60 miles for treatment. This is where a CHARP is able to help, as they understand these problems and are trusted by the men and women they serve. Because of that, they are able continued on next page 20 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R # K N O W U A B C C C • U A B . E D U / C A N C E R 21