Cherishing Our Hearts and Souls (COHS), a Roxbury-based, community-centered coalition affiliated with the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), has received funding from the Education Network to Advance Cancer Clinical Trials (ENACCT) and the network’s founding partner, the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF), to implement a community-wide effort to raise public awareness and improve access to cancer clinical trials.
COHS will seek to address the issue of community literacy around cancer clinical trials by changing knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs among both health care providers and community leaders to enhance access to and increase participation in the trials.
Said principal investigator and director of the COHS coalition Brian K. Gibbs, who is an instructor at the Department of Health Policy and Management at HSPH: “Despite the overwhelming presence of medical and research institutions of prestigious acclaim, Roxbury, like many urban African-American and poor neighborhoods across the country, experiences higher death rates from cancer and other diseases that are preventable [than others]. Through this funding and the strengthening of our partnerships, we will dispel certain historical myths about cancer and combine present-day knowledge about cancer clinical trials with our power to make individual, institutional, and community-level changes.”
In collaboration with ENACCT, COHS will take part in the “Breaking It Down: Our Health Our Way” project, a three-year training and social-marketing project to increase Roxbury residents’ knowledge of cancer clinical trials, reduce fear and mistrust of research, and work with other ENACCT-PEP sites to develop models for increasing underrepresented populations in cancer clinical trials. The partnership includes Roxbury residents, community volunteers, and community-based organizations.
“What we learn from COHS’s innovative partnership will help provide better informed and more effective practices for clinical-trial education that are replicable and grounded in ‘real-world’ experience,” said Margo Michaels, executive director of ENACCT. “Innovative approaches such as these can help reduce the gaps in clinical trial access and accrual.”