Researchers in the Department of Public Health Sciences in New Mexico State University’s College of Health and Social Services have launched a study to examine the impact of cancer on Hispanic family dynamics and help the development of cancer education programs that serve Hispanic women diagnosed with cancer.
In the first phase of their study, Rebecca Palacios, associate professor, and Karoline Sondgeroth, health education specialist, are looking for participants. Participants must be a Hispanic mother, diagnosed with cancer in the past two years and have at least one child who was between the ages of 5 to 12 at the time of the cancer diagnosis. Participants can live in the Dona Ana County, New Mexico, or El Paso, Texas, region.
The study will include focus groups and individual interviews. The focus groups will be conducted in participants’ preferred language, English or Spanish, and will last 1.5 hours. Participants will receive a free lunch and a $25 gift card. Individual interviews, by telephone or in-person, also can be conducted for women unable to attend the focus groups.
According to Palacios, an estimated 1.2 million mothers of school age children will be newly diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. but her cancer is an illness that affects the entire household, including her dependent children. Most of the research on how women and their families cope with cancer is focused on non-Hispanic white participants of middle to upper-middle socio-economic status and the few studies involving racial ethnic minorities typically focus on middle class African Americans.
“Studies on Hispanics and individuals of lower socio-economic status are lacking, which some researchers attribute to recruitment difficulties and language/cultural differences that impede the effective transmission of health information,” Palacios said. “This leaves Hispanics underserved and underrepresented, particularly those in the border region between the U.S. and Mexico. This is unfortunate given that Hispanics on the border exhibit the fastest-growing population rates in the U.S. and experience significant cancer health disparities.”
As NMSU’s lead on the cancer outreach core for the NMSU and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center partnership, Palacios said the team selected this study topic after finding a lack of education programs for cancer patients in the local border region. She added that professional literature about cancer education programs for Hispanics with cancer also was limited and didn’t focus on Hispanics of Mexican origin.