Southwest Kansas may get more cancer services

1/8/2011

By RACHAEL GRAY

By RACHAEL GRAY

rgray@gctelegram.com

After $4.4 million was awarded to the University of Kansas to fight cancer in rural American Indian and Latino communities, southwest Kansans may have access to more information on the treatment and prevention of cancer.

A group of researchers and doctors visited southwest Kansas Monday to meet with agencies such as United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries and other collaborating organizations.

Dr. Allen Greiner, associate professor of family medicine, is the principal investigator on the project. He said KU will work with various agencies to exchange research and preventative literature.

"In partnership, we will develop an extensive and robust collaborative for developing cancer prevention, treatment and research programs across our large, rural and increasingly diverse state," he said.

Dr. Paula Cupertino, assistant professor in the department of preventative medicine and public health, said the project would be made up of three components — research, community outreach and training.

KU researchers will hire a community health worker who will work out of UMMAM to organize and oversee all community health outreach activities for the program and initiate patient navigation activities for cancer patients in southwest Kansas.

Cupertino said the position was created to help disperse information to the western part of the state.

"Geographically, southwest Kansas is far from our cancer center," she said.

Cupertino, along with Mercedes Saint-Elin, research assistant, and Alicia Brooks, project director, will be traveling to southwest Kansas once a month to meet with agencies, health care workers and local media to disseminate information.

The project currently is funded for five years. Afterward, the group will present outcomes and explore continuation of the project.

Stephanie Waggoner, executive director of UMMAM, said the project has the potential to impact the community in great ways.

"Partnering with Greiner and his team will allow additional services and education to reach uninsured and under-insured populations in southwest Kansas. Many people don't have the resources to obtain health care and don't really know how to navigate the health care system, which contributes to health disparities. This program will assist with that and provide other services that currently aren't available," she said.

The project will strengthen KU's Cancer Center's chance to earn National Cancer Institute designation, according to a release from KU.

He said without dramatic changes in direct involvement of community members, health disparities will continue in urban and rural neighborhoods across the country.

"Most people don't think of Kansas as a highly diverse state. But it has significant pockets of diversity — and serious health disparities across large geographic regions, involving minorities, the poor, the elderly, the geographically isolated and others," he said.

Greiner said with proper networking, different organizations can help inspire greater community participation in clinical research.

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