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Project will assess needs and work to accelerate adoption of evidence-based cancer prevention interventions

Chapel Hill, NC – Up to 50 percent of cancer deaths can be prevented by not smoking, reducing exposure to smoke, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active; and researchers have identified specific programs that really work to help people change these health behaviors, also known as evidence-based interventions (EBIs).

Public health researchers are working with all 58 North Carolina community colleges to identify EBIs to cancer prevention for their employees, students, and community residents. North Carolina has the third largest community college system in the United States, serving residents of all 100 counties. Because of their broad reach to populations with the greatest cancer-related disparities, NC community colleges have high potential as a setting for cancer pre­vention interventions. As part of the University Cancer Research Fund’s Health-e-NC program, researchers from UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center are partnering with the state’s community colleges to assess needs and preferences for adopting and implementing EBIs for cancer prevention that are suitable for their students, employees and community residents. Phase I of the study included a survey that was distributed to all campuses.

“We received overwhelming participation in our initial health survey — 100 percent of the state’s community colleges responded,” says Laura Linnan, ScD, CHES, the project’s principal investigator. “And from our previous research, we know that community colleges are wonderful collaborators, so this study will allow us to extend the work we have begun, assess their needs and preferences, and figure out the best ways to tailor EBIs to their campus communities.”

“The results of this partnership with UNC will provide our colleges with the tools they need to help students, employees and citizens make life changes that will ultimately reduce their risk of cancer,” said Dr. Scott Ralls, President of the NC Community College System. “Since our colleges provide the education and training for the majority of North Carolina’s nurses and allied health professionals, it is fitting that they would also be involved in working with UNC to promote healthy lifestyles across our state.”

Survey results will be shared with Ralls and other key leaders among the community colleges. As part of Phase II, the UNC researchers will also identify a handful of community colleges where additional information will be collected via interviews with key stakeholders, scans of the physical environment on campus, and discussions to identify key strengths and resources based on an asset mapping process. Additional funds will be pursued from the National Institutes of Health and/or local foundations to then deliver EBIs of greatest benefit to community colleges based on the results of this assessment process.