Announcing Partnership with Stanford Cancer Institute (SCI) to Embark on a Major Action Study in Santa Clara County

January 26, 2022

We are ecstatic to announce our partnership with Stanford Cancer Institute (SCI) in a major year-long community action study focused on Cancer awareness and prevention with Filipina/x/o communities in Santa Clara County.

In a process that began over a year ago, L.E.A.D Filipino and SCI began discussions at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and rise in anti-Asian hate sentiment.

Since the global outbreak, L.E.A.D Filipino has worked to serve local Filipinas/xs/os impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic through financial assistance, educational campaigns with Santa Clara County’s Public Health Department, and providing critical socio-emotional support to students, families, and seniors as the country faced sudden twists and turns, and most prominently – a reckoning with race. 

As one of the largest Asian Pacific Islander (API) groups in California at a population of 1.5 million and ~150,000 Filipinas/xs/os in Santa Clara County, not much is known about how Filipina/x/o communities approach Cancer prevention in their daily lives. Preventative measures include diet and lifestyle, exercise and movement, and regular health screenings. 

“Healthcare is a system that touches us all at some point in our lives. The necessity of ensuring our FilAm community accesses and navigates these systems to receive prevention (and intervention) services is one issue. The other is engaging them to understand the power they hold with their own health. Building this confidence means providing information on the various health services and resources available, educating around diet and lifestyle, and emphasizing regular medical screenings,” said Dr. Angelica Cortez, founder and executive director of L.E.A.D Filipino.

A leading champion and advisor for the study, Medical Director of the Stanford Cancer Center South Bay, Dr. Elwyn Cabebe remarked on the partnership, “As a Filipino American medical oncologist and a member of the community advisory board for the Stanford Cancer Institute (SCI), a key SCI mission is to conduct research in our ten-county “catchment area” and disseminate effective risk assessment, prevention and early detection practices to this and other populations in the state of California and beyond.  This pivotal study in partnership with community leader, L.E.A.D Filipino, is the first to look at unmasking the inherent barriers towards quality, life-saving cancer screening and care for the Filipino-American community.  This is one of many ongoing SCI projects looking to set an ambitious path towards ensuring health equity for minority and disadvantaged groups affected by cancer.”

On Cancer and its prevalence in ethnic communities, Dr. Cabebe stated, “It is due to a multitude of factors such as tobacco use, obesity, diet-associated tumors, wealth disparities, and environmental factors as well as others. In addition, effective health care delivery is also challenging in these communities. One study reported that almost half of minorities said it was at least somewhat important for them to be treated by a doctor who understood or shared their culture. But minority cancer survivors were 58% less likely than non-Hispanic white patients to be treated by a doctor who shared or understood their culture.”

Dr. Rachel J. Mesia, Program Director of Community Research and Capacity Building at SCI pointed at the discrepancies between FilAm representation in the healthcare workforce and invisibilization in health research, “This study is designed to bring more visibility to FilAm health by having community members inform about their knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs related to cancer. It is a powerful source of information for designing and implementing effective health interventions relevant for FilAms.”

The study will be driven by SCI and L.E.A.D Filipino’s Health Initiatives Team, led by community organizers and researchers Jennifer Cayanan and Michelle Nelmida. Both emerging leaders in the fields of healthcare. Jennifer shared her reflections on the journey ahead, “I am delighted that LEAD Filipino and Stanford Cancer Institute are partnering to do important and actionable research on the knowledge of Cancer in the FilAm community of Santa Clara County. As a rising professional in my field, I find it important now, more than ever, that we responsibly collect data for our community, by our community.”

In a similar sentiment, Michelle Nelmida remarked that “Through this action study, we will address the health needs of FilAm communities and understand the underlying factors, attitudes, and behaviors that lead to high Cancer risk. As an organization that advocates for advancing civil rights, racial equity, and economic stability for FilAms, we are excited to take on a community-based research approach to address these disparities using a health equity lens.”

Both groups hold strong relationships with local community-based organizations, grassroots organizations, faith-based congregations, and industry associations to begin the field work and electronic survey distribution efforts.

The action and community-based study begins March 1.   

Advisory Committee members include Dr. Elwyn Cabebe, Medical Director of Stanford Cancer Institute; Dr. Jennifer Briscoe of TeleCare and L.E.A.D Filipino’s Board of Directors; Dr. Joan Brown of University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine; and Razelle Buenavista or Asian American Recovery Services-HealthRight 360 and L.E.A.D Filipino’s Board of Directors.

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