|Center Profile: Meet Claudia Hardy and learn about her work in cancer health disparities|
Claudia Hardy, M.P.A., is the program director for the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Deep South Network for Control (DSN). She specializes in minority health issues, including community-based participatory research, access/barriers to health care, Community Health Advisor training, as well as cancer health disparities and community capacity building.
Q: How long have you been working at UAB?
A: I actually received my undergraduate degree from UAB in 1992, and I began working for UAB during my senior year in Volunteer and Guest Services at UAB Hospital. From there, I began working in the Department of Surgical Pathology Administration, while pursuing my master’s degree in public administration. After that, I spent the next five years working in the UAB Division of Gerontology Continence Program.
Q: How did you become involved with the Deep South Network?
A: I happened to meet Dr. Ed Partridge while I was working for the Division of Gerontology managing a prostate cancer project for African Americans, and I soon joined the Cancer Center as a community outreach coordinator to organize and pilot-test a Community Health Advisor (CHA) program in the Black Belt. When Dr. Partridge got word that the National Cancer Institute had funded the Deep South Network, he asked me to manage the project. I grew up in a very rural part of Dallas County, so I was familiar with the targeted areas. That was in 2000, and the rest is history.
Q: What sort of progress has DSN made in the past 10 years?
A: We’ve had tremendous success in our CHA model, which identifies “natural helpers” in the community to educate their families, friends and neighbors about cancer. We’ve trained more than 1,700 CHAs, and we were instrumental in decreasing the disparity in mammography screening rates from 17 percent to .25 percent among the Medicare population in the DSN’s targeted areas.
We’ve had more than 1,800 people join our WALK campaign, which encourages people to increase their physical activity by joining neighborhood walking teams. Our Body & Soul initiative is geared toward African-American churches and encourages people to eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables. Both of these programs provide us with an opportunity to implement cancer prevention strategies while increasing cancer awareness and screenings. In the last three years alone, we’ve conducted more than 1,500 community-based cancer awareness activities and reached more than 116,000 individuals.
Q: What are the next steps?
A: This next generation of funding will expand our efforts to include research as well as the overall scope of our Community Health Advisors trained as Research Partners and local community partners in a whole new way. This next five years of funding will allow us to dig a little deeper to develop and implement strategies for those not yet reached for cancer awareness and screening. We will also have the opportunity to impact weight loss as a cancer prevention strategy in African-American women in these disparate populations. We’ve also just completed an exciting project with the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia. That project, called ZamBama, will help us form a community action plan to help us increase awareness and screenings of HIV-related cancers in Alabama and Mississippi. We’re finding that our communities are becoming more empowered and concerned about their health care, which is wonderful.