A legacy of asian american community engagement electricity origin


Asian Americans are the first U.S. racial group for whom cancer is the leading cause of death. In 2000, the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART), an initiative funded by the National Cancer Institute, set out to reduce this cancer health disparity. Headquartered at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center since 2002, the group’s researchers poured their energy into addressing the unique cancer burden affecting Asian Americans.

Seventeen years and 218 published peer-reviewed papers later, AANCART achieved major milestones –some even unpredicted — in demonstrating risks can be significantly reduced for colorectal cancer, lung and liver cancer among Asian Americans. The AANCART program ended in December 2017 and the culmination of nearly two decades of work was highlighted recently in a special edition of the American Cancer Society’s journal, Cancer.

AANCART developed linguistically appropriate materials in at least six Asian languages, cultivated culturally competent and trusting relationships with the community, trained bilingual/bicultural lay health educators, completed 12 randomized controlled studies, and nurtured an impressive array of next-generation researchers, including Shin-Ping Tu, the new chair of the Division of General Internal Medicine.

“Cancers in Asian Americans are disproportionately due to infectious agents such as hepatitis B virus, which can lead to liver cancer,” said Moon Chen, associate director for Population Research and Cancer Disparities and AANCART’s lead principal investigator. “Liver cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death for the group, which doesn’t even appear in the top five for Caucasians.”

Chen led the nationwide network team, which includes UC Davis-based researchers Elisa Tong, a tobacco cessation specialist; Julie Dang, director of Community Engagement and Outreach at the cancer center; and Susan Stewart, a biostatistician and population health expert. The research also involved investigators at UCLA, UCSF and the University of Hawaii, as well as the Chinese Community Health Resource Center in San Francisco and Hmong Women’s Heritage Association in Sacramento.

Chinese American men smoke at high rates, putting their families at risk by exposing them to second-hand smoke. In one study, Tong used educational interventions in households with one male smoker and one female non-smoker to help them quit and stay tobacco-free. The study also increased awareness about the consequences of tobacco use for smokers and non-smokers living in the same home. Study participants learned communication strategies to improve household relationships and implement smoke-free living environments.

An outreach effort of Dang’s was to encourage Asian Americans to provide specimens for use in research, and removing language and cultural barriers was critical to community buy-in. Dang explained that in some cases, Asian languages don’t have English equivalents to words like “biospecimen.”

During a blood donation event, trained health workers explained to potential donors what a biospecimen is and why their donations are beneficial to cancer research. During the first event, a community health worker donated a tube of blood, which prompted others to sign up. By the end of the recruitment and engagement period, hundreds of Asian Americans donated more than 1,000 blood samples.