Reducing Cancer Health Disparities through Community Engagement: Working with Faith-Based Organizations (Project CHURCH)
Lorna H. McNeill, Ph.D., M.P.H., is Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Health Disparities at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. McNeill's research is on the elimination of cancer-related health disparities in minority populations. Her research has particular emphasis on understanding the influence of social contextual determinants of cancer in minorities, with a special focus of the role of physical activity as a key preventive behavior and obesity as a major cancer determinant. Her research takes place in minority and underserved communities such as public housing developments, black churches, community-based clinics and low-income neighborhoods-communities with excess cancer death rates. She has been continuously funded, receiving grants from various funding agencies (i.e., National Institutes of Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, etc.), to better understand and design innovative solutions to address obesity in racial/ethnic minority communities.
Dr. McNeill is PI of several community-based studies, primarily working with African American churches. One is a called Project CHURCH, an academic-faith-based partnership established to: 1) identify underlying reasons for health disparities in cancer and cancer risk factors (e.g., screening, diet) among AAs using a cohort study (N=2400), 2) engage AAs as partners in the research process, and 3) to ultimately eliminate disparities among AAs. In 2014 Dr. McNeill furthered her partnership through the Faith, Health, and Family (FHF) Collaborative. The goals of FHF are to enhance the Project CHURCH partnership to address family obesity in African Americans, strengthen the partnership by developing a larger coalition of organizations and stakeholders to address the problem, assess church and community interest in family obesity and develop an agenda to address obesity in faith settings. To date we have 50 churches as members. Dr. McNeill is also director of the Center for Community-Engaged Translational Research (CCETR) at MD Anderson. CCETR works with MD Anderson faculty to develop collaborations with underserved communities with a focus on conducting high-quality, relevant cancer prevention research.