07:23am Thursday 09 July 2020

Efforts Boosted to Address Tobacco Cessation in New Jersey’s South Asian Community

New Brunswick, N.J.– In keeping with a core mission of providing prevention education and programs to the state, The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) and the UMDNJ-School of Public Health are embarking on the development of educational efforts to combat the negative effects of tobacco on the state’s South Asian population. A $200,000 community grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will provide for the creation of a research-based, service-oriented set of instructional tools that health educators will be able to utilize not only in New Jersey, but also nationwide.  The goal is to inform South Asians of the dangers of tobacco and smokeless tobacco products and what cessation resources are available. CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Data from the last U.S. Census in 2000 show that there were nearly 170,000 South Asian-Americans living in New Jersey at that time.  Further growth in this population is expected to be reflected in the 2010 census data now being compiled. CINJ Community Research Director Shawna V. Hudson, PhD, associate professor of family medicine and community health at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, who is an expert in health disparities, says because of that anticipated growth it is imperative to address the unmet needs of this population. “Since cigarette smoking is the main form of tobacco use in the west, most cessation programs are not tailored to South Asian populations which tend to use tobacco chew products along with cigarettes,” she noted.

Basic scientists at CINJ already have been exploring the toxicology of traditional South Asian tobacco products, and its population science members who are affiliated with tobacco-specific programs at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health, have been looking at surveillance and intervention strategies to overcome the disparities of tobacco approaches.  Those programs include the Tobacco Dependence Program, the Center for Tobacco Surveillance and Evaluation Research Program, and the Department of Health Education and Behavior Science. According to Dr. Hudson, these experts will work closely with a CINJ-based community health educator, who will conduct grass-roots level research on the South Asian population.   The goal is to develop culturally-appropriate tobacco cessation curriculum which will be used to train health and community leaders who are on the front lines of interacting with the South Asian public.  The anticipated ‘tool kit’ will contain web, print, video and other interactive presentation tools, which will be available in various languages relevant to the South Asian community.

The research will focus in part on the use of smokeless products known as paan masala and zarda, types of tobacco that are associated with oral cancer in the South Asian population.  CINJ Member Michael B. Steinberg, MD, MPH, FACP, director of the Tobacco Dependence Program offered through the UMDNJ-School of Public Health, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and CINJ, says it is critical to continue education efforts with the South Asian community. “While information on tobacco control needs for the South Asian community remains sparse, we do know that patterns of use indicate that this population utilizes smokeless tobacco at a disproportionately higher rate than the general population,” he said. 

Recently, CINJ began offering a clinical component to the Tobacco Dependence Program, which provides expertise on quitting smoking through treatment, education, research, and advocacy.  “This award will enhance what we’re doing through the Tobacco Dependence Program,” adds Dr. Steinberg, who also is an associate professor of general internal medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and an associate professor of health education and behavioral science at UMDNJ-School of Public Health. “By possessing a better understanding of how the South Asian community views tobacco use and cancer, we can develop culturally-appropriate messages and strategies that will have a positive impact on this population.”

CINJ Member Cristine Delnevo, PhD, MPH, director of the Center for Tobacco Surveillance and Evaluation Research Program and chair, Department of Health Education and Behavioral Science at UMDNJ-School of Public Health, agrees. “Unfortunately, due to limited data, research and surveillance strategies have not been adapted to allow for adequate health planning for South Asians in New Jersey and elsewhere.  By having a community health educator devoted solely to finding out the specific needs of this population and by spending time with its members, we will be able to tailor effective education methods for them,” she said.

Viewing this grant as positive news are members of the South Asian Total Health Initiative (SATHI), which is a community outreach education and research component at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School dedicated to addressing health disparities and improving the delivery of culturally competent health care to South Asians.  Earlier this year, CINJ entered into a partnership with SATHI with a goal of improving cancer awareness and providing screenings and educational information in a number of languages specific to the South Asian community. 

SATHI Co-Director Naveen Mehrotra, MD, MPH, clinical assistant professor at UMNDJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, says the award will allow for another much-needed layer of support for this population. “Increased cancer awareness within New Jersey’s South Asian community has been quite evident over the last several months with the success of several cancer screenings and health outreach events coordinated by CINJ and SATHI.  This latest grant will both strengthen and add to these efforts, and we are especially pleased to have the combined expertise of those at CINJ and the UMDNJ-School of Public Health leading this initiative,” he said.

The resulting education tools developed from this grant will support the NCI’s National Outreach Network, which focuses on multidisciplinary research-based approaches in crafting effective outreach and communications methods to inform underserved and at-risk communities about health promotion and prevention.  CINJ is one of 17 cancer centers in the nation selected as part of this elite group for this award cycle.  The grant runs through September 30 and is renewable for an additional three years.

About The Cancer Institute of New Jersey

The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (www.cinj.org) is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and serving as an education resource for cancer prevention. CINJ’s physician-scientists engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life.  To make a tax-deductible gift to support CINJ, call 732-235-8614 or visit www.cinjfoundation.org. CINJ is a Center of Excellence of UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. 

The CINJ Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides a mechanism to rapidly disseminate important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Major Clinical Research Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Memorial Hospital, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Hospital, Cooper University Hospital and Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Affiliate Hospitals: Bayshore Community Hospital, CentraState Healthcare System, JFK Medical Center, Mountainside Hospital, Raritan Bay Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton (CINJ at Hamilton), Saint Peter’s University Hospital, Somerset Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center, The University Hospital/UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School*, and University Medical Center at Princeton. *Academic Affiliate


 Contact: Michele Fisher                                                         
Phone: 732-235-9872
E-mail: [email protected]

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