Translating Research into Policy: Reducing Breast Cancer Disparities in Illinois
Dr. Carol Ferrans is internationally recognized for her work in disparities in health care and quality of life outcomes. She has a distinguished record of research that includes major grants funded by three institutes of the National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute, National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities, and National Institute for Nursing Research).
Dr. Ferrans’ work has been instrumental in reducing the disparity in breast cancer mortality Chicago, which at its peak was among the worst in the nation. Efforts led by Dr. Ferrans and colleagues led directly to statewide legislation, to address the multifaceted causes of black/white disparity in deaths from breast cancer. She was one of the founders of the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force (MCBCTF), leading the team focusing on barriers to mammography screening, to identify reasons for the growing disparity in breast cancer mortality. Their findings (citing Ferrans’ research and others) and recommendations for action were translated directly into the Illinois Reducing Breast Cancer Disparities Act and two additional laws strengthening the Act. These laws and other statewide efforts have improved access to screening and quality of mammography throughout the Illinois. In addition, Dr. Ferrans and her team identified cultural beliefs contributing to later stage diagnosis of breast cancer in African American and Latino women in Chicago, and most importantly, showed that these beliefs can be changed. They reached more than 8,000 African American women in Chicago with a short film on DVD, which was effective in changing beliefs and promoting screening. Her team’s published findings were cited by the American Cancer Society in their guidelines for breast cancer screening. The Chicago black/white disparity in breast cancer deaths has decreased by 35% since the MCBCTF first released its report, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health Vital Records.