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Did you know that cancer is the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the United States? Hispanics typically have lower cancer rates than non-Hispanic whites, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But they often face cultural and language barriers, which lead to significant health disparities in access to care, quality of care and outcomes.

Moffitt Cancer Center is developing new approaches to empower and educate Hispanics.

“Education is the key to battling these disparities, and doing the right kind of outreach that goes beyond just simple translation is the best way to ensure this particular community gets the cancer care and education it needs,” explains Chantel Griffin-Stampfer, manager of the Moffitt Program for Outreach, Wellness Education and Resources (M-POWER). “Our educational materials were developed using a social marketing approach, which targets a specific audience rather than a more generic product distributed to everyone.”

More than 45.5 million Hispanics live in the United States and are the nation’s fastest growing ethnic group. Seventeen percent of the U.S. population is estimated to be Hispanic and nearly 20% speak a language other than English at home.  

Simply targeting a language isn’t enough, experts say. There is a need to include cultural connections as well, particularly within the cancers that disproportionately affect this particular population.

Hispanic men and women, for example, are twice as likely to have or to die from liver cancer. Hispanic women, research has shown, are 2½ times more likely to be diagnosed with stomach cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic white women.

Hispanic women are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 30% more likely to die from it compared to non-Hispanic white women.

Even though Hispanic women have a lower incidence of breast cancer than non-Hispanic women, they have a much worse prognosis because of late diagnosis and delayed treatments. Educating on the importance of healthy living and breast cancer screening through health education workshops in Spanish, bilingual education materials and Spanish TV media campaigns have successfully reached thousands of women and men in the Hispanic community. All of those campaigns have a similar message: Make healthier choices.

“Using educational materials appropriate in language and to the culture empowers Hispanic patients by improving their capacity to make health care decisions,” Griffin-Stampfer said. “That could include enrolling in clinical trials. But even if they choose to not participate in a trial, at least they will be making a more informed decision about what type of care is best for them personally.”