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New center tackles cancer disparities in minorities and immigrants

Anyone can get cancer, but it disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities. The newly established Minnesota Community Networks Center for Eliminating Cancer Disparities aims to reduce the cancer burden in underserved communities—especially Minnesota’s growing immigrant and refugee populations.

Masonic Cancer Center researcher Kolawole Okuyemi, M.D., M.P.H., will lead the new center, which is funded by a five-year, $4.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Okuyemi, who directs the Medical School’s Program in Health Disparities Research, is among the top five family medicine investigators funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“While overall, Minnesotans enjoy a high quality of life and a stable status of health care, not all Minnesota citizens benefit equally,” he says. “This award recognizes the expertise of both University researchers and our community partners in addressing health disparities. The grant creates a unique opportunity to use community-based participatory methods to reduce the disproportionate burden of cancer and other health disparities in the region.”

Researchers have long known that Minnesota’s minority populations face barriers to accessing health care, but proven methods to overcome them haven’t been fully identified, which has led to continued disparities. The new center aims to improve awareness of and access to cancer screening in immigrant communities, limit tobacco use in minority youth, and train health professionals on issues related to health disparities.

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