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Pathways to Discovery: Spring 2011

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UCCCC Takes Steps to Eliminate Disparities in Breast Cancer

If you have community members who speak the language and who look like the community, they can deliver a much more powerful message.
—Karen E. Kim, MD, MS

The UCCCC Office of Community Engagement and Cancer Disparities (OCECD), under the direction of Karen E. Kim, MD, MS, is launching a series of programs to help increase breast cancer awareness and to improve mammography utilization rates among racial and ethnic groups in the Chicago area.

One program is funded through a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center support grant supplement as part of the nationwide Community Health Educators (CHE) program. A key element of the program is developing culturally relevant educational materials. The Chinese American Service League (CASL) of Chicago—an OCECD strategic partner—has 220 homecare workers who are being educated through this program.

“We’ve spent the last 2 months talking with all 220 homecare workers, and much of the discussion was in Cantonese,” explained Dr. Kim, associate professor of medicine. “Our goal was to understand how Chinese Americans in Chicago perceive mammography and to provide them with information about breast cancer screening.” The homecare workers were surveyed before and after the meetings to measure changes in knowledge and attitudes.

Although the CHE supplement enabled the establishment of a solid infrastructure to develop the program, making a more significant difference in mammography utilization rates or in the quality of mammography services in Chicago’s underserved populations requires more resources. Currently, only 14% of the no-cost mammograms that UChicago offers each year are being used.

New ENRICH’D Program
Building on the CHE infrastructure and a $20,000 grant from the Exelon Corporation through The University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation, OCECD is now launching the Engaging Neighborhood Resources in Combating Health Disparities (ENRICH’D) program.

ENRICH’D focuses on culturally relevant breast cancer information created in partnership with community high school students and medical students from the Pritzker School of Medicine to maximize effective program dissemination.

“These programs are important because the information currently available doesn’t speak to individual communities—it is very generic. Even within a particular ethnic group, there are nuances. By tailoring this health information, I hope it will help motivate behavioral change,” said Dr. Kim. “We also know that if you have community members who speak the language and who look like the community, they can deliver a much more powerful message.”

ENRICH’D kicks off this spring for Asian Americans in the Armour Square Community and later this year for African Americans in the Roseland Community. The program will include community forums and townhall meetings.

“What has really surprised me so far is the resilience of these communities and their real interest in trying to have some control over their health,” said Dr. Kim. “My short-term goals are to understand the barriers to screening and figure out how we can help. My long-term goals are to create pathways to care for these communities and make it a sustainable resource.”

With continued support from NCI, UCCCC, and corporations such as Exelon, Dr. Kim said she is hopeful that ENRICH’D will serve as a widely disseminated model for community engagement in targeted populations, “Through shared resources and common goals, we can truly succeed in decreasing breast cancer incidence and increasing breast cancer survival rates for all populations.”