Population Studies & Disparities Research Program Outreach Initiatives

Outreach Initiatives

Program members are engaged in key outreach activities that address the needs of the populations in our catchment area. 

The Witness Project® of Detroit

The Witness Project® of Detroit (WPDetroit), led by Dr. Hayley Thompson, engaged 34 African American women who completed a core training program to serve as either Witness Role Models (African American breast cancer survivors) or as Lay Health Advisors (women who were never diagnosed with cancer). Witness Role Models shared information about their diagnosis, treatment and survival; Lay Health Advisors provided factual information about breast cancer. Since February 2013, WPDetroit has reached 447 women through community programs. Most of the programs included a pre-test/post-test of knowledge of breast cancer risk factors. Data were collected via a wireless audience response system. Test scores increased from 54% at pre-test to 83% at post-test. In December 2014, WPDetroit received a research award from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation to include information about cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination, as well as to develop and test a parental decision aid for HPV vaccination. Dr. Thompson also led Metro Detroit HealthLink, a collaboration between Wayne County Library and Karmanos. Created in November 2013, Metro Detroit HealthLink explores the potential for libraries and other community-based and cultural organizations to serve as platforms for community organizing to fight cancer. The program builds upon the success of Queens, NY Library HealthLink and works with individual library branches to create their own Cancer Action Councils (CACs), groups of community members who are invested in promoting cancer screening and reducing cancer deaths.

Southeast Michigan Partners Against Cancer

The community outreach component of the Southeast Michigan Partners Against Cancer (SEMPAC) was supported by a pilot study of older African American adults’ beliefs about biospecimen collection and banking. An outreach program was developed based on the pilot findings to enhance public awareness and intentions to donate biospecimens. The work was conducted with community focus groups (Healthier Black Elders Coalition, Pro Literacy Detroit, Interfaith Health and Hope Coalition, Adult Well Being Services, and participants from BFRC Community Based Research Registry). The program was presented at the Presbyterian Villages Senior Centers and a large community hospital. Other SEMPAC-related outreach efforts include serving on the Board of the Interfaith Health and Hope Coalition, and participation in the Health Equity Committee of the Michigan Consumers for Healthcare. Work with the faith community includes serving on faculty planning committees for the Ecumenical Theological Seminary focusing on training clergy about the need for medical research and minority participation in research to reduce disparities.

SEMPAC faculty also partnered with Detroit Public Library in leading a “community read project” of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. SEMPAC partners who participated included Sister’s Network of Detroit, American Cancer Society, Pro Literacy Detroit, Neighborhood Service Organization, Adult Well Being Services and Detroit Area Agency on Aging. Copies of the book were distributed to Detroit high schools and libraries. SEMPAC faculty also developed and led a Detroit Komen Race for the Cure funded project “The Power of Collaboration: Enhancing Existing Infrastructures to Bring Breast Health Awareness and Screening to Underserved Women” and participated as trained program facilitators for the American Lung Association’s “Freedom From Smoking.” Program members are active in the state of Michigan, notably with the Michigan Cancer Consortium (MCC). 

Jewish Women’s Health Project

The Jewish Women’s Health Project is funded by a local Jewish Federation affiliated foundation called The Jewish Fund. This project was created to scientifically develop a culturally appropriate and relevant cancer-related health education program for ultra-Orthodox Jewish women, a high risk group because many are medically underserved and the stigma of cancer is a deterrent to seeking care. Outreach activities to increase awareness of screening and early detection have engaged the Council of Orthodox Rabbis of Greater Detroit, Jewish Family Services, The Women’s Orthodox League, Mikveh Israel, Cancer Thrivers Network for Jewish Women, The Sky Foundation, and Kids Kicking Cancer. These interactions have assisted program researchers with building significant community trust for research participation. 

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