Overcoming Cancer Disparities through Community Based Education: The National Black Leadership on Cancer

This article has been archived.
Please use for reference only.

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: October 6, 2006

The United States Census Bureau estimates that there are 38 million people living in America who identify themselves as black or African-American. This is an extremely ethnically-diverse group of individuals, yet they have one sobering fact in common. African-Americans have the highest cancer mortality (death) rate of any racial or ethnic group, for all types of cancer combined and for most of the major cancers, including breast, prostate, colorectal and lung cancer. Although death rates have been decreasing since 1993, efforts are still needed to continue this positive trend.

The National Black Leadership Initiative on Cancer (NBLIC) is an outreach initiative of the National Cancer Institute ( NCI ), established to spread the word about cancer incidence, treatment, and prevention to the African-American community in ways that are culturally sensitive and appropriate. The NBLIC understands that advances made through cancer research will be of no benefit unless this information is readily available to the African American community. Thus the primary goal of the NBLIC is to positively influence the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of African-Americans about cancer, ultimately closing the racial gap in the fight against cancer.

In their quest to achieve this goal, the NBLIC established the Network Project in 2000. This program targeted 23 densely populated African-American communities, each with a high prevalence of cancer. They have launched several unique programs in these communities, and we are joined today by Joyce Sheats, RN, MPH, Project Director for the NBLIC, to talk about the NBLIC and their initiatives.

OncoLink: Thanks for talking with us today. Let's first talk about the NBLIC's current goals. What does the group hope to achieve in the coming years?

Ms. Sheats: Thank you for this opportunity. In 2005 the project became NBLIC III: Community Networks Program, a part of the NCI 's Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD). The NBLIC has four regions with the national office, located at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, and with Dr. David Satcher as our Principal Investigator. NBLIC III's overall goal is to reduce cancer health disparities for African-Americans by developing collaborations that enhance existing community partnerships. These partnerships will address the disconnect between delivery systems and community-based participatory education, research, and training in the African-American community.

OncoLink: African-American women are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than white women, yet they are more likely to die of the disease. NBLIC has developed a novel outreach project to educate African-American women about breast cancer, called "Stay Beautiful, Stay Alive". This program uses the beauty salon, a place where African American women spend many hours, to promote cancer screening and healthy behaviors. Trained volunteers present information on breast and cervical cancer screening and help dispel myths in the community. Can you tell us how this program came to be, and how you gained the support and participation of the beauty salons? What type of response have you seen to the program?

Ms. Sheats: "Stay Beautiful, Stay Alive" ( SBSA ) was developed out of the Midwestern Regional Office in Chicago, Ill. The project gained support by including the community partners in the planning and implementation of the project early on [in the process]. The beauty/nail salon owners, who typically focus on their clients' physical beauty, embraced the opportunity to offer a program that would emphasize breast and cervical cancer screening in this unique setting.

OncoLink: As we know all to well, women are not the only African-Americans disproportionately affected by cancer. African-American men have a 20% higher incidence rate and a 40% higher death rate for all cancers combined than white men. African-Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with later stage disease, and therefore have a poorer prognosis. The NBLIC program "For Men Only" was developed to educate men about prostate cancer and screening practices. Where is this program being presented, and how has it been received?

Ms. Sheats: "For Men Only", developed by the Nashville,TN coalition, is usually presented in conjunction with an existing activity such as a men's health screening in the community, at a church, or it may be presented as a stand-alone session that is requested by a particular group or organization, such as the 100 Black Men of America, Inc. The program continues to be well received due to the content and format of the sessions, which not only address prostate cancer and health, but also look at other common co-morbidities seen in the community, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and obesity.

OncoLink: What other programs does the NBLIC have ongoing?

Ms. Sheats: We have two other best practices, "Down Home Healthy Living" (DHHL) and "Clearing the Air" (CTA). DHHL targets colorectal cancer and nutrition, while CTA focuses on lung cancer and tobacco use. The National Office of NBLIC is currently a partner organization with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded Men Against Breast Cancer (MABC) Partners in Survival Program. MABC is the first national non-profit organization to educate and empower men to be effective caregivers when breast cancer strikes a female loved one. NBLIC was chosen as the organization to implement the program for African-American men. Our regional program offices are involved in numerous community-based research, education and training activities which address cancer health disparities in African- Americans. Some of these activities include: clinical trails education conferences for African-American clergy, the Hope Cometh cancer survivorship program and the Body and Soul project which has a nutritional focus.

OncoLink: How can individuals or groups get involved in the program?

Ms. Sheats: By calling 1-800-724-1185 or go to our website for more information at www.nblic.org

OncoLink: Thanks so much for telling us about the NBLIC's efforts. There is a lot of work to be done to spread the word about cancer screening and survivorship and I am sure the NBLIC can use all the help they can get. Hopefully our readers will be inspired to get involved by the great work already being done!