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Released June 9, 2005


HATTIESBURG – The University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Sustainable Health Outreach has received extra ammo in its battle against cancer.

Partnering with the Deep South Network for Cancer Control (DSNCC), the center is aiming to reduce cancer mortality disparities in minority and poor populations across Mississippi and Alabama through a $6.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The DSNCC, located at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), also includes collaborators from Tuskegee University.
Focusing primarily on African-American and Hispanic communities, the network's target areas are the Hattiesburg/Laurel region, the Mississippi Delta, the Alabama Black Belt and Jefferson County, Ala.

The National Cancer Institute required that the program be conducted in high-risk urban and rural sites, according to Dr. Agnes Hinton, co-director for Southern Miss' Center for Sustainable Health Outreach.

"We have had to fight many barriers to reduce the deaths from cancer in these areas," Hinton said.

According to Hinton, most of the barriers include poverty, lack of knowledge, health insurance, the inability to gain access to mammography screenings and other cancer detection services, and often times, lack of transportation.

"Cancer is the second leading cause of death in American women. In 1992, the overall cancer incidence rates were 10 percent higher among African-Americans than Caucasians," said Hinton.

"Moreover, African-Americans with cancer have shorter survival rates compared to Caucasians. Cancer mortality rates for African-Americans are almost 2.5 times greater than those for whites."

Hinton said the additional money will be used to form community coalitions, fund other needed infrastructures to help communities fight disparities in cancer deaths and to further train volunteers in cancer awareness.

Over the past five years, the DSNCC has trained more than 900 volunteer Community Health Advisors as Research Partners (CHARPS) in the two states, increasing the numbers of women in program counties screened for breast or cervical cancer.

"The community health advisors (CHAs) understand the issues facing their individual communities, and people in their neighborhoods trust and listen to them," said program manager Claudia Hardy.

Hardy said the CHAs are able to educate, assist with access to care and help individuals navigate the health-care system. "Plus, the grant helps us provide significant economic support to the region by hiring local staff," she said.

Hinton said not only have the DSNCC's efforts netted significant funding from the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Mississippi State Department of Health, but they have also produced three summer training programs for undergraduate and graduate minority students interested in cancer research, with 16 Mississippi students participating.

"Through our work with the Mississippi Partnership for Comprehensive Cancer Control, we have advanced cancer prevention and treatment in Mississippi," said Hinton. "Without USM, there would be no DSNCC in Mississippi, and without the program, little of the progress would have happened."

For more information on the Deep South Network for Cancer Control, please contact Dr. Agnes Hinton at (601) 266-5859.



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July 22, 2005 2:22 PM