The PSM–MCC Partnership’s Outreach Program efforts, guided by CBPR and SM as frameworks for community engagement, represent an effective cancer outreach program that is feasible, acceptable, and culturally relevant to Hispanics residing in two separate communities in Ponce (PR) and in Tampa (FL) to reduce cancer health disparities. The specific lessons learned from each formative outreach project and pilot research initiative were discussed earlier. This section summarizes two overarching lessons and opportunities that could have broader implications for other academic and community partnerships for reducing cancer disparities: (a) integrating outreach and research for mutual benefit and (b) working with differential resource availability and infrastructure for cancer prevention in PR and mainland United States.
The Outreach Program at both institutions provided a unique opportunity for integration of community outreach and pilot research activities by providing coordinated cancer education activities that empower community members, as well as implement beneficial pilot research projects. As a result, the “attendant” objective when embarking on each initiative was to ensure that community participation and benefit were paramount considerations. To ensure this, the team at both institutions used existing community partnerships (Gwede et al., 2010
; Meade et al., 2010
) or convened new community advisory groups (Simmons et al., 2010
) to gain community participation. In addition, ensuring that community outreach events yielded evaluative data that informed future research efforts was an important goal for the researchers. Also, researchers sought to ensure that each research project had apparent community benefit, while yielding substantive evaluative and research pilot data to support sustainability and next steps. Community input enhanced the tailoring of each project to ensure responsiveness and more readily address pertinent needs of each community rather than implanting a “one-size-fits-all” solution in both communities. Mutual benefit (Minkler & Wallerstein, 2008
) to both communities and academic institutions was an important consideration and served as the platform for integrating outreach and research efforts.
Another unique challenge in this partnership was working with differential resource availability and infrastructure for cancer prevention in PR and mainland United States. During the process of problem identification (particularly for Outreach Projects 1 and 2), it was important to realize that community members may bring up many priority “social and general health” needs that are not directly related to cancer and may seem indirectly related to our efforts to address cancer health disparities. Using lessons learned in other academic community partnerships (Gwede et al., 2010
) our team was cognizant of additional community concerns while keeping appropriate focus on addressing cancer education, prevention, and care concerns. For example, Outreach Project 1 provided cancer screening resources and cancer survivorship resources in Ponce and Tampa, while recognizing that transportation and languages services were important considerations/barriers to be addressed concurrently. Finally, because the resources for addressing genetic counseling and testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer are virtually nonexistent in PR, the Outreach Program closely collaborates with a researcher who is providing genetic counseling and testing services in the context of a research protocol. They have used the data to support grant applications to increase the availability of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer genetic counseling and testing services in PR.
In summary, partnerships between majority- and minority-serving institutions can enhance community outreach and engagement efforts to reduce cancer health disparities when situated in CBPR and SM frameworks or other appropriate theoretical/conceptual frameworks. Collaborations between academic institutions and community must retain heightened focus on mutual benefit and sustainability. The balance between these two perspectives helps reduce tension between the needs of academic researchers and the importance of empowering communities and enhancing access to services. The lessons and opportunities derived from these initial efforts are demonstrative of the possible achievements to be realized as this partnership achieves sustainability through future larger scale collaborations and enhanced outreach and community-based research infrastructure in both Ponce and Tampa Hispanic communities.