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 establish a network of community leaders, academic cancer control researchers, policy-makers, 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 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.” Koh served as commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health from 1997 to 2003 and is a former member of the National Cancer Advisory Board.

The network will develop programs for cancer prevention and early detection interventions in underserved communities. Interventions will include smoking cessation, healthy eating, physical activity, and early detection and treatment of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers.