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Evaluation of Lay Health Advisors to Promote Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Among Latinas

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Abigail Navarro

July 28 2011

12 minutes


Mentor: Ana Martinez-Donate, Ph.D.

Department: Population Health Sciences

Background: Breast cancer is the leading cause of death among Hispanic women in the United States and cervical cancer incidence and death rates in Hispanic women are twice those of non-Hispanic whites.  Educating Hispanic women in the United States about breast and cervical cancer is imperative, yet it can sometimes be difficult to accomplish due to language and cultural barriers.  Lay health advisor (LHA) models for educating women about these topics seem to be an effective approach to addressing the health issues and disparities underserved Hispanic women face.  Although the LHA model is known to be effective, there is very little empirical evidence available regarding what characteristics make a successful LHA.  This research study aims to characterize successful LHAs, including their motivations, barriers, and experiences.

Methods: To determine the factors that contribute to the success of an LHA, we approached a current program, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin’s Cuidándome (Taking Care of Me) Program in Milwaukee, that uses an LHA intervention to educate Hispanic women about breast and cervical cancer. Quantitative and qualitative methods were employed. Qualitative data collection included conducting focus groups (2 focus groups with about 6-8 participants each) with current and past LHAs from the Cuidándome program.  Quantitative data collection included a survey to identify predictors of LHA effectiveness and job length.

Results: Although no data has been collected from the LHAs of the Cuidándome program in Milwaukee, there is existing data from the LHAs of the Cuidándome program in Madison collected by students who previously worked on this study.  Preliminary results suggest that successful LHAs are not motivated to participate in breast and cervical cancer prevention education because of financial gain nor because of their personal experience with cancer but rather are motivated to participate based on an interest to improve their community.  Furthermore, based on preliminary qualitative data, it appears that the social capital gained by the LHAs by participating in this program ranges from the development of better communication skills to improved self-esteem.

Conclusions: This study promises to provide an understanding as to what individual characteristics enhance the effectiveness of an LHA.  This will allow for better selection and training of future LHAs, which will in turn directly and positively affect the outcome of education efforts for Latinas.  Future work includes expansion of this study to include a more diverse sample of organizations that use LHAs to educate the community about various topics ranging from breast cancer prevention to reproductive health education.  Speculative organizations include Proyecto Salud sponsored by Core-El Centro and The Welcomers Club sponsored by the Allied Drive Wellness Center.     


Rural and Urban Scholars in Community Health (RUSCH) Summer Research Program


Preventive Medicine, Public Health, Rural Health, Urban Health, Women's Health
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