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Vol. LVII, No. 17
August 26, 2005

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NCI Grants Program Targets Cancer Disparities

Building on past successes, the National Cancer Institute recently launched a Community Networks Program with $95 million in grants designed to reduce cancer disparities through community-based participatory education, research and training among racial and ethnic minorities and underserved populations. The goal is to significantly improve access to, and utilization of, beneficial cancer interventions in those populations. Some 25 grantee institutions will be part of the CNP, which is being administered by the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD).

Dr. Mark Clanton, NCI deputy director for cancer care delivery systems, said, "The NCI has made a strong commitment to cancer care delivery for health disparities reduction. Programs such as the CNP are important to helping us ensure that all communities benefit from the strides we are making in improving quality and access to cancer care for all Americans."

The goal of establishing CNP's trustworthiness and long-term commitment to the communities is based on the perception, noted by CRCHD director Dr. Harold Freeman as well as communities themselves, "that all too often when community health research and outreach projects end, there is no lasting impact or contribution to the health of the participating communities."

The CNP is a natural progression of NCI's community health activities for minority and underserved populations. In the 1990s, efforts focused primarily on cancer awareness. In 2000-2004, NCI's Special Populations Networks included cancer awareness, research and training activities with an eye toward developing culturally appropriate education materials, reported Dr. Kenneth Chu, chief of the Disparities Research Branch of the CRCHD.

"We are starting the CNP on the premise that knowing is not enough," Chu said. "We need to reduce cancer disparities in the community by getting people to act — to engage in prevention measures and get early detection tests."

CNP projects include eight in African American communities, four for Hispanics and Latinos, four for American Indians and Alaska Natives, three for Pacific Islanders, two for Asians and four in underserved communities.

Throughout the 5-year life of the CNP, NCI will continually evaluate grantees' strategies and activities to help them address the cancer health spectrum, stretching from cancer prevention and early detection tests with outreach to the community through patient navigation (assisting patients with resolving their abnormal screening test results through diagnosis and on to appropriate treatment) to rehabilitation (cancer survivorship programs including support groups). One emphasis of the survivorship component is designed to counter attitudes of "fatalism" toward cancer in some minority groups.

The grantees are charged with developing activities to span this continuum. The CNPs will be developing active partnerships with community groups, screening clinics and hospitals in their communities. All CNP community projects will also develop collaborations with NCI's Cancer Information Service, a national information and education network. In addition, each project will integrate activities with at least three other NCI programs such as those dealing with cancer disparities, the development of minority researchers, intramural clinical trials, epidemiology studies and treatment clinical trials.

Program managers meet weekly to monitor and evaluate grantees' activities. In addition, a CNP Summit will be held every year in Washington, D.C., so that principal investigators and staff can have a forum in which to share information on successful strategies and common problems. At this year's summit, July 18-20, all NCI division directors were invited to present updates on their cancer health disparities activities and identify opportunities for collaboration.

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