The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Houston recently announced the launch of a new multidisciplinary partnership to address cancer health disparities among black and Hispanic populations in the city of Houston.
Principal investigators Lorna McNeill, Ph.D., associate professor and chair in the department of health disparities research at MD Anderson, and Lorraine Reitzel, Ph.D., chair in the department of psychological health and learning sciences at U of H will spearhead the program.
UHAND is a four-year, $275,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) designed to partner an NCI-designated cancer center with a minority-serving institution to address cancer disparities. The grant will focus on training, research and community engagement.
Black men and women have the highest death rates compared to any other ethnic group, according to the NCI. Among women, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the country and black women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at more advanced stages and there is a often delay in treatment after diagnosis, making them 42 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.
The factors that contribute to these cancer disparities—include but are not limited to the lack of trust many blacks have towards the medical community, low socioeconomic statuses, lack of access to health care and lack of proper nutritional resources such as food deserts which also contribute to poor diets.
According McNeill the program will entail two, two-year cohorts of eight students and one postdoctoral fellow, each of whom are paired with a research mentor from either MD Anderson or UH and a community organization, specifically in the Third Ward and Fifth Ward. “The communities involvement will help us and the students to understand the problem from a real-world perspective, not just theoretical and didactic” .
“If you want to help reduce those rates among blacks and Hispanics, you need to involve the community in your research. We want the research we conduct to be the type of research that they identify with and are a part of,” she added. “By spending time [with the organization], they deepen their understanding of what the problem is and how these types of organizations are involved in solutions.”
“People are becoming more and more aware of … disparities that are preventable and unjust,” Reitzel said. “It’s those things that we want to work toward remedying so that preventable health disparities are not an issue and that we can achieve health equity in the area of cancer for all the people living in Houston and in the United States.”
Cover – Hello Beautiful