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NCI Announces Awards to Increase Minority Access to Cancer Information

  • Posted: September 27, 2000

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) this month announced multiple awards totaling close to $1 million to help develop research and programs to understand and eventually breach the Digital Divide that exists among many minority populations in accessing and utilizing cancer information on the Internet. The awards are an effort of NCI's Cancer Information Service (CIS) to work with regional cancer control groups and organizations to test strategies aimed at increasing cancer communications in underserved communities.

According to NCI Director Richard D. Klausner, M.D., "One of NCI's goals as part of its Extraordinary Opportunities in Cancer Communications is to make access to computers and the Internet as universal to all populations as the telephone is today." Klausner notes that these pilot projects will be an excellent first step toward achieving this goal.

Four awards totaling $932,000 were made to existing CIS contractors and will last for one year with a possibility for six-month extensions. The awards were made to CIS institutions that will, in many cases, be collaborating with local researchers, technology experts, and regional partners who serve minority and low-income populations.

The Digital Divide has been identified as a special problem in health care. Many studies show that certain ethnic minorities and low-income, less-educated populations suffer a disproportionate cancer burden and have limited access to electronic information about health. However, too little is known about certain groups' interest in and use of cancer information tools. Several of the funded projects will attempt to gather information in this area by using informant interviews and focus groups.

With a better understanding of why barriers to information and knowledge exist, researchers will be able to use the data gleaned from these pilot projects to design programs that can lead to better health care decisions and adherence to recommended health behaviors. These pilot projects will serve as models for larger scale efforts.

A list of the project awards and a brief description follows:

  • CIS New York State (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, N.Y.) will work with a consortium of nonprofit and private sector organizations, including the Urban League, Harlem YMCA Cyberlab, Playing to Win Harlem Community Computing Center, Bell Atlantic Technology Education Center, and the North General Hospital with the Helen Fuld School of Nursing. The goal is to make basic cancer information accessible in community computer centers located in Harlem, N.Y.
  • CIS North Central and Mid-West Regions (University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis., and Karmanos Cancer Center, Mich.) will expand the CHESS Program (Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System) that puts personal computers and Web-based support resources into the homes of breast cancer patients. The program, already successful in Wisconsin, will be expanded to reach African-American women in Detroit.
  • CIS New England Region (Yale Cancer Center, Conn.) will work with Head Start in inner city New Haven to bring computer skills and access to cancer information to Head Start workers and the parents of the children they serve. The goals are to determine what cancer information is most useful to the community and to leave a legacy of computer access in the Head Start center and in the homes of Head Start families.
  • CIS Mid-South Region (Markey Cancer Center, Ky., and the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, La.) will introduce computer technology at meal sites in 10 senior centers in low-income areas of Louisiana with a goal of understanding which technologies are most accepted by the population and of providing cancer information in a format that is useful to senior citizens.