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Behavioral and Cancer Epidemiology Research Program

The behavioral and cancer epidemiology research program in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics is focused on examining the behavioral and biological determinants of cancer in the general and underserved populations. This research has three areas of emphasis: (1) assessing the predictors and barriers of colorectal cancer screening and developing interventions to increase screening behavior; (2) determining the role of various exposures (e.g., environmental and social determinants), socio-economics, and health disparities on cancer-related outcomes using spatial epidemiology; and (3) developing and evaluating group and individually randomized health promotion interventions. Active interdisciplinary collaborations with faculty from institutions across the U.S. contribute to this effort as well as community-based partners.

Select projects in this research area include:

  1. Interventions:
    • An Interactive Preventive Health Record to Increase Colorectal Cancer Screening (Jones): a National Cancer Institute-funded grant to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of an interactive, web-based tool, MyCRCS, which will be integrated into the electronic medical record to improve patient-centered care. The tool aims to help patients overcome their barriers to colorectal cancer screening by tailoring on, among other items, their preferred screening test and their top test-specific barriers to screening. Co-Investigators include faculty from Temple University Health System; Virginia Commonwealth University; University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill; University of Texas Houston, School of Public Health; University Texas Austin, Center for Health Communication; Georgetown University, Lombardi Cancer Center; and University of Michigan, School of Public Health.
    • Colorectal Cancer Screening With Improved Shared Decision Making (CRCS-WISDM) (Jones): a large, longitudinal community-based intervention that embeds shared decision making within community-based primary care practice with broader reaching community-wide features targeted to all community residents in collaboration with Allina Health in Minnesota.
  2. Etiology and advanced methods:
    • ​​Structural equation modeling to investigate the observed and latent variables that impact psychosocial constructs as well as health behaviors. (Jones)
    • Spatial modeling to assess how environmental exposures and contextual factors influence cancer screening prevalence, cancer incidence and other health-related outcomes (Jones): these collaborations are varied and include research with colleagues from Virginia Commonwealth University, Indiana University, and SSMHealth as well as a local community non-profit focused on PFAS-contaminated drinking water. 
  3. Measures development and validation
    • ​​Psychometrics of colorectal cancer screening barriers scales (Jones): a collaboration with investigators in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the University of Texas Houston - School of Public Health to determine the validity of comprehensive scales measuring barriers to four commonly recommended colorectal cancer screening modalities.

The goal of this program and line of inquiry is to impact cancer prevention and control and ultimately reduce cancer morbidity and mortality through novel, community-engaged, and translational research.