Press Releases

2005 Releases

HSPH Receives NCI Grant to Establish Network of Professionals for Reducing Cancer Deaths and Illnesses in Minority and Underserved Populations

For immediate release: May 13, 2005

Boston, MA-The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has received a grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, to establish a program to reduce cancer disparities in minority and underserved populations. The program, named MASS CONECT (Massachusetts Community Networks to Eliminate Cancer Disparities through Education, Research and Training), has received $500,000 for the first year of a five-year grant.

MASS CONECT will involve representatives of HSPH, the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). The program will establish a network of community leaders, academic cancer control researchers, policymakers, state and local public health agencies, local media, and public health and health care practitioners in Boston and Worcester, the two largest cities in Massachusetts, and in Lawrence, the city with the lowest per capita income in New England. In addition, an advisory group will work with local community members to gather information and help them use it.

"MASS CONECT represents a major opportunity to bring together these multiple partners and maximize precious resources," said Dr. Howard K. Koh, principal investigator of the grant and HSPH Associate Dean for Public Health Practice. "We believe that the network offers an extraordinary model that will integrate partners in an unprecedented fashion." Dr. Koh served as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health from 1997 to 2003 and brings special expertise to the project as a former member of the National Cancer Advisory Board and former advisor to the NCI's Special Population Network Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness Research and Training.

The network will develop programs for cancer prevention and early detection interventions in underserved communities. Interventions will include smoking cessation, healthy eating and physical activity, and early detection and treatment of breast, cervical and colorectal cancers. Key community coalitions include The Alliance for Community Health (Boston), Boston REACH 2010 Coalition, Mayor's Health Task Force of Lawrence, and Common Pathways (Worcester).

"We are excited to partner with Dr. Koh and the MASS CONECT team to eliminate cancer disparities in the city of Lawrence," said Ms. Milagros Grullon, Chief Neighborhood Planner and the Mayor's Health Task Force Coordinator.

Co-investigators on the grant include: Karen Emmons, HSPH Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health and Associate Director of the DF/HCC Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities; Kasisomayajula Viswanath, HSPH Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health and Associate Professor, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI); JudyAnn Bigby, Director of the Office for Women, Family and Community Programs, BWH, and Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Nancy Krieger, HSPH Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health; and Elizabeth Barbeau, HSPH Assistant Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health and Assistant Professor of Medical Oncology/Population Sciences at the DFCI.

"This comprehensive initiative will link HSPH and the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center with multiple community partners to advance cancer education; stimulate community-based participatory research and state/local level policy initiatives; provide training in cancer prevention and disparities for junior faculty, grassroots leaders, and the media; and increase use of cancer prevention and clinical services among residents of low socioeconomic position in these three urban communities," said Dr. Emmons. DF/HCC is a consortium of seven institutions, including HSPH, and an official NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"This is an extraordinary and unique opportunity to make a dent into disparities related to cancer, and we are delighted to partner with communities and to work with them," said Dr. Viswanath.

Funding for MASS CONECT is part of a larger Community Networks Program announced by the Department of Health and Human Services on May 6.

For further information contact:

Harvard School of Public Health
Division of Public Health Practice
Phone: (617) 495-8904