MADISON Most cancers are easier to treat if detected early, so cancer educators emphasize the benefits of screening and prompt treatment. But for immigrants and other "medically underserved communities," simply handing out a brochure on early detection even if it's been translated into the appropriate language may not work.
"Medical interventions fail if the intervention does not match the community's level of readiness to address the issue," says Tracy Schroepfer, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
After a three-year study of the Hmong population in Wisconsin, Schroepfer and collaborator Viluck Kue found that cancer educators were trying to explain cancer detection and prevention to people who don't have a word for cancer or a concept for preventing disease.
The Hmong, originally a hill tribe in Laos, emigrated to the United States after the Vietnam war; about 60,000 Hmong people now live in Wisconsin, says Kue, a Hmong who directs the Wisconsin United Coalition of Mutual Assistance Associations, which serves Southeast Asian immigrants across the state.
Previous efforts to educate Hmong people about preventing and treating cancer had fallen flat, says Kue. "A lot of Hmong were scared of chemotherapy and radiation, they saw people who were not helped, who passed away, and so they began to turn down chemo and radiation in favor of traditional herbal treatment. We want to make sure that people are not scared away from western medical treatment, want to show that these treatments can be helpful."
To find out why the traditional approaches to medical education, which are often based on brochures and handouts, were ineffective, Schroepfer and Kue settled on a strategy called community-based participatory research, which relies on the community to set the agenda and to be a partner in carrying out the research.
In contrast to usual academic research, Schroepfer says, th
|Contact: Tracy Schroepfer|
University of Wisconsin-Madison