The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) has awarded $576,677 to fund a Texas A&M University program designed to transform family reunions into venues for teaching African-American Texas families about cancer prevention.
The grant will support "More Than A Picnic: It’s A Family Affair for Lifestyle Change," a program proposed by Mary D. Shaw-Ridley, director of Texas A&M’s Center for the Study of Health Disparities (CSHD) in the Department of Health and Kinesiology in the university’s College of Education & Human Development.
Family reunions represent "an untapped venue to engage, motivate and sustain lifestyle behaviors that prevent or reduce risk" for certain cancers, Shaw-Ridley said. The project will initially recruit families from three Texas metropolitan areas: Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and Bryan-College Station.
Each participant will be trained to serve as "family health coaches" and to deliver a 30-minute education session during their reunion. Families will then undergo a 12-month health education program to improve their lifestyle behavior, to create family support networks, and to take advantage of early detection screening.
The project expects to educate a minimum of 1,500 adults between the ages of 18 and 70, as well as at least 50 health care professionals. "Education and awareness are central to behavioral changes that lead to cancer prevention, risk reduction and early detection," Shaw-Ridley said.
"If successful, 'More Than a Picnic' will have a major impact on the adoption of healthier lifestyles and early detection screening."
Shaw-Ridley is an associate professor who teaches courses related to health promotion. She has worked extensively with health and health care service providers across the country to further understand the complex array of factors that influence health and health care outcomes for African-American, poor, and other medically underserved communities.
CSHD provides leadership in the integration of science, practice and policy to eliminate health and education disparities that are based on race, ethnicity and socioeconomics. Shaw-Ridley is one of several faculty members in the Department of Health and Kinesiology involved in cancer research and education.
Currently, the department is engaged in pursuing opportunities with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health to research such cancer treatment techniques as using exercise as chemotherapy for breast cancer patients and identifying key proteins that may suppress tumors among cancer patients.
The grant is part of the $11 million CPRIT awarded recently to fund 22 new cancer prevention programs, targeting over 600,000 Texans. Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2007 establishing the CPRIT and authorizing the state to issue $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs and services in Texas.