Falk College Faculty Awarded Komen Foundation Grant for Breast Cancer Awareness, Education Programming

Public health professor of practice, Luvenia Cowart, working with Maria Brown, assistant research professor, School of Social Work, has received a $47,293 grant from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure New York Foundation to support the project, “Breast Cancer Awareness and Education Program for African American Women in Underserved Communities.” The project’s aim is to reduce disparities in breast cancer and its associated health risks, and to promote participation in mammography and early detection services for African American women in the Syracuse community.

According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths among African American women. Standard health education has not been effective with minorities, particularly those with lower incomes or less education. Widespread distrust of the formal healthcare system, health literacy issues and a perceived lack of cultural relevance contribute to the challenges. Historically, faith-based organizations have led the movement to reach at- risk African American communities using culturally appropriate health promotion to address chronic diseases.

The Genesis Health Project Network, a community-designed, culturally competent intervention, has developed and started to implement the breast cancer program in the Syracuse community. Co-founded by Cowart in 2004, the Genesis Project is a partnership between minority churches, community and government sponsors and Syracuse University’s Falk College to reduce health disparities in minority populations. Under Cowart’s leadership, the Genesis Project has successfully facilitated health seminars, fitness programs, educational programs at barbershops, and healthy lifestyle activities with churches and universities. Her work and the Genesis Health Project were recognized with numerous honors, including the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities Director’s Award in 2008 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health.

Through pastoral health messaging and culturally appropriate strategies, the grant will support efforts to heighten awareness of breast cancer risks and prevention, promote mammography and early detection, and increase awareness of free/low-cost mammography and adoption of healthier behaviors.