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Arnold School of Public Health


HPEB’s Daniela Friedman receives $145K grant from NCI and NIH to improve communication strategies about environmental risks of breast cancer for African-American women

April 3, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Daniela Friedman, Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, and three USC-Arnold School of Public Health co-investigators, Swann Arp Adams, Heather Brandt, and Jamie Lead, have received a $145,106 grant from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. The researchers will use the two-year grant to fund the project, Strategies for Communicating the Environmental Risks of Cancer (SCERC), with a particular population in mind: African-American women.

Understanding the complex factors contributing to breast cancer risk is at the forefront of the U.S. public health agenda...using effective messaging and communication strategies in the dissemination of environmental health information with underserved groups is also a national priority.

-Daniela Friedman, HPEB Professor and Chair

Breast cancer mortality rates are disproportionately higher for African-American women in South Carolina when compared to their European-American counterparts. With much of breast cancer research focusing on the latter group, scientists and clinicians have limited information about the role of environmental exposures on breast cancer risk, especially among medically underserved groups such as African-American women.

“Understanding the complex factors contributing to breast cancer risk is at the forefront of the U.S. public health agenda and a recent  call to action requires additional research to better understand how exposures to chemicals and physical agents individually or in mixtures contribute to increased breast cancer risk,” says Friedman. “Using effective messaging and communication strategies in the dissemination of environmental health information with underserved groups is also a national priority.”

Friedman and her team will be collaborating with adult literacy centers and community-based organizations across the state on plain language and culturally relevant messaging. High-risk populations, including racial/ethnic minorities, often live in neighborhoods where they are disproportionately exposed to chemicals from the environment. These groups are, therefore, potentially more susceptible to poorer health outcomes. Having a clear understanding of their environmental risks is of critical importance to these medically underserved groups.

“Communities care about their environments, and about whether environmental conditions will affect their heath and the health of their families.

-Daniela Friedman, HPEB Professor and Chair

The overall goal for this project is both interdisciplinary and multifaceted. The researchers aim to contribute scientific evidence for the development of accurate, plain language, and culturally appropriate communication approaches focused on reducing breast cancer risk from environmental factors for African-American parents and/or caregivers of pre-pubescent African-American girls. Friedman and her team will be collaborating with adult literacy centers and community members on the messaging component. 

“The body is particularly vulnerable to environmental exposures during specific lifespan periods including during puberty,” says Friedman. “Therefore, we will focus the proposed prevention communications research to occur with families with young girls.”

Friedman and her team plan to engage communities in conversation and research about environmental issues to both incorporate their input and improve the public’s knowledge about cancer risk and outcomes in the process. “Communities care about their environments, and about whether environmental conditions will affect their heath and the health of their families,” says Friedman of their approach to engage and empower community members by including them in the project. 

The team plans to use findings from this study to help shape future intervention programs related to effective communication about breast cancer risk and behavior change among African-American communities in South Carolina.