Juan Luque:

Tackling Low Cervical Cancer Screening Rates

juan-luqueGeorgia Southern University researchers in the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health (JPHCOPH) are improving health outcomes for Hispanic women after receiving a $297,185 federal grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) titled “Salud es Vida (Health is Life): Reducing Access Barriers to Cervical Cancer Screening among Underserved Hispanic Women.” John (Juan) Luque, Ph.D., professor of community health in the JPHCOPH and his team are refining and testing a cervical cancer education program for underserved Hispanic women from migrant farmworker backgrounds, in an effort to fight cancer health disparities.

“In rural Georgia, there are numerous barriers to regular screening for underserved Hispanic women including shortage of providers, transportation challenges and burdensome costs for uninsured patients,” says Luque. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Hispanic women have the highest rates of cervical cancer of all racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Hispanic women are also more likely to die from cervical cancer than non-Hispanic whites.

In order to increase information about access to cervical cancer screening among Hispanic farmworker women, Luque is partnering with the Southeast Georgia Communities Project (SEGCP), a non-profit organization directed by Andrea Hinojosa in Lyons, Ga. The community health workers (or promotoras in Spanish) will have the educational tools to deliver this information to their fellow community members.

Luque and his team have also partnered with Georgia Health Sciences University’s Gynecological Cancer Prevention Center and Department of Medical Illustration, to produce a short educational video describing the procedure for a Pap test and pelvic exam. During the program, the promotoras will present the video and share information using a cervical cancer education toolkit, consisting of a flipchart and brochures. Luque’s team developed the toolkit in a previous NIH pilot grant, and he is hopeful that this efficacy study will reach approximately 80 women.

“The hope is that this study will add to the evidence base for how important a community health worker can be in making sure that underserved women receive routine, yet often lifesaving, Pap tests,” said Luque. “Promotoras typically volunteer to work with women in low-income areas who often do not have adequate access to preventative health care. This study will demonstrate how researchers can partner with community partners and promotoras in a rural area to refine and test a cervical cancer education and outreach toolkit to reduce cancer health disparities.”

In addition to the Hispanic population, Luque is also evaluating a large cervical cancer screening initiative in Cusco, Peru. Along with researchers in the Georgia Health Sciences University Gynecological Cancer Prevention Center, Luque was awarded a $143,912 grant to design and pilot a brief social marketing intervention to increase cervical cancer screening. The two year project, funded by the National Cancer Institute is titled “Implementation Evaluation of a Cervical Cancer Screening Initiative in Cusco, Peru.”

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