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Drexel and Lazarex Cancer Foundation Establish Program to Help Improve Health Outcomes for Philadelphia Neighborhoods

May 23 2019

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Drexel University is partnering with the Lazarex Cancer Foundation to establish Community IMPACT, a program that will focus on reducing cancer and improving health outcomes in Philadelphia, starting in West Philadelphia neighborhoods. The program involving the Dornsife School of Public Health, College of Nursing and Health Professions and College of Medicine will combine public health qualitative and quantitative assessment and research methods with a grassroots engagement in communities that are often not invited to make their own decisions for health care.

“We aim to inform the development and implementation of culturally tailored and linguistically appropriate messaging and educational strategies to prevent cancer and treat it more effectively” said Lucy Kerman, PhD, senior vice provost for University and Community Partnerships at Drexel.

Lazarex Cancer Foundation is recognized nationally for giving cancer patients and their families hope— by improving their access to the newest and most innovative treatments available to fight the disease—while Drexel is known for its commitment to civic engagement. This partnership focuses on ensuring that members of underserved communities can equally benefit from this effort.

The overall goal of Community IMPACT, which is funded by the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, is to improve understanding and awareness of the burden of cancer on patients and their families and provide opportunities for the prevention and treatment of cancer for residents in disadvantaged communities in Philadelphia.

“We are committed to building healthy communities and giving voice to the voiceless and hope to the hopeless through the Community IMPACT program,” said Loretta Sweet Jemmott, PhD, vice president for Health and Health Equity and professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions.

“The impact of the initiative will be to transform both the way we think about cancer prevention and the actions we implement to reduce cancer burden,” said Dornsife School of Public Health Dean Ana Diez-Roux, MD, PhD.

There are two main project teams working on the initial 18-month phase of the project, which began in January 2019, one at the Urban Health Collaborative at the Dornsife School of Public Health and the other at the Dornsife Center Community Wellness HUB of the College of Nursing and Health Professions.

The project team based at the Urban Health Collaborative is led by Diez-Roux, who serves as the director of the UHC. The team will collaborate with Shannon Lynch, PhD, assistant professor in Cancer Prevention and Control at Temple’s Fox Chase Cancer Center.

The UHC will leverage its robust data resources and analysis capabilities to look at the burden of cancer in Philadelphia and its neighborhoods to identify disparities in cancer outcomes and incidence by neighborhood, race and socioeconomic characteristics. In addition, the team will examine cancer risk factors, including smoking, obesity and diet, as well as the use of cancer screening, including breast and colon cancer screening in the city. The team will disseminate its findings to the broader Philadelphia region to provide neighborhood cancer data for public health in the city as well as make the information accessible for empowering community residents through reports, briefs and other media.

The project team based at the Community Wellness HUB is led by Jemmott. This team will collaborate with colleagues from the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Community Wellness HUB team will leverage its expertise in conducting deep-dive community conversations in West Philadelphia to elicit the community’s knowledge of cancer risk-related behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and barriers to cancer education, screening, treatment and clinical trials to help develop an effective, culturally appropriate cancer prevention and treatment campaign, “Pathway to Cancer Care and Wellness Program,” tailored to the community’s voices and needs.

This team will also engage residents in establishing an approach that will reduce barriers, increase their trust and utilization of the medical treatments and clinical facilities, and assist them in navigating a complex health system.

The mutual trust and education gained from this two-way conversation will enable the next phase of the program. Together with other colleagues from Drexel, the College of Medicine will implement screening, with the goal of early detection and referral for treatment. The College of Medicine will also inform patients of opportunities to participate in clinical trials at Drexel and collaborating cancer centers through IMPACT, the Lazarex Cancer Foundation program for Improving Patient Access to Cancer Clinical Trials.

The findings and lessons learned from Community IMPACT will be disseminated, adapted, and replicated to assist with the development of similar community-led cancer initiatives to help empower and save the lives of residents in North Philadelphia through the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services, led by Director Roberta Waite, and other vulnerable communities throughout Philadelphia.