research update Harvest for Health Expands Across Alabama B y A DA M P O P E In 2011, UAB researchers introduced cancer survivors to a new kind of therapy — gardening. Harvest for Health, an ongoing study at UAB, provides cancer survivors with gardening supplies and equipment free-of-charge and pairs them with a master gardener from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., professor and Webb Endowed Chair of Nutrition Sciences in the Department of Nutrition Sciences and a associate director for cancer prevention and control at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, has received a R01 grant to expand this study to 426 cancer survivors throughout the entire state of Alabama to collect further data. There are more than 15 million cancer survivors in the United States, and the majority are 65 years of age or older. JACKSON Despite improvements in treatment and five-year cure rates, cancer survivors are at greater risk for second malignancies, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and functional impairment DEKALB — downstream effects that result in an annual cost of SHALL approximately $130 billion each year. “Cancer survivorship has been proclaimed a national CHEROKEE priority, with a call to develop effective interventions that can ETOWAH prevent, delay or reduce the adverse effects and co-morbidities that accompany cancer and its treatment,” Dr. Demark- CALHOUN Wahnefried says, adding that this new study builds on strong CLAIR preliminary data and relies on the infrastructure of the ACES CLEBURNE Master Gardener program. TALLADEGA “Studies have shown a link between diet and cancer, CLAY RANDOLPH and between physical activity and cancer,” she says. “We want to see how cancer survivors respond to this gardening intervention, as well as how it affects their diet and exercise COOSA CHAMBERS behaviors, and their health and quality of life.” TALLAPOOSA UAB provides tools and seedlings, and will either prepare a raised bed in the yard of a survivor’s home or provide ELMORE LEE EarthBoxes® — large gardening containers on wheels — that can be kept on a porch or patio. Master gardeners visit with MACON the survivors twice a month for one year, offering advice, ONTGOMERY RUSSELL expertise and suggestions, while answering the questions new BULLOCK gardeners have. ENSHAW 16 PIKE U A BARBOUR 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 The original study began in Jefferson County, Alabama, in 2011. Recruiting has now expanded to 27 total counties for cancer survivors age 65 and older, and the first participants began in January 2017. Eligible participants are cancer survivors from those counties who have completed their primary therapy, such as surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, and who do not raise vegetables already. Participants will be followed for two years. The master gardeners are all volunteers who have completed a rigorous certification process from ACES, which boasts more than 2,000 master gardeners in Alabama. “They are very excited to be making a difference in the lives of cancer survivors and their families,” Dr. Demark- Wahnefried says. “We have plenty of master gardeners standing by. We just need more cancer survivors to participate in the trial.” Participants in the study do not have to go to UAB, but will have three visits from the research team at their home during the course of the project, along with the twice-monthly interactions with the master gardeners. The research team believes Harvest for Health will be both fun and educational, while also motivating survivors to eat better. Preliminary results show improvement in physical function in many participants. Moreover, 96 percent of past study participants state that “they would do the study again if given the chance.” “Our cancer survivors show improved strength, especially in their hands, improved mobility, and an increased ability to get up and down,” says Dr. Demark-Wahnefried. “That’s an added benefit on top of better nutrition.” For more information, or to enroll, call 844-GROW-GR8 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.