154183 Improving breast health in a refugee community: The Somali Women's Breast Cancer Project

Monday, November 5, 2007

Heather Burkland, MPH candidate , Department of Health Services, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA
Diana DuBois, MPH, MIA , WellShare International, Minneapolis, MN
Halimo Abdullahi , Minnesota International Health Volunteers, Minneapolis, MN
Sagal Isse , Minnesota International Health Volunteers, Minneapolis, MN
Sara Rohde, MPH , Minnesota International Health Volunteers, Minneapolis, MN
Fowsia Ali , Minnesota International Health Volunteers, Minneapolis, MN
Shamso Omar , Minnesota International Health Volunteers, Minneapolis, MN
Adar Kahin , Minnesota International Health Volunteers, Minneapolis, MN
Background: Minnesota has the largest concentration of Somali refugees in the United States, with population estimates ranging from 25,000 to 60,000. Prior to their arrival in the U.S., most Somali women were unlikely to be screened for breast cancer because such services were not widely available. Although specific data for Somalis are lacking, evidence shows that racial and ethnic minority groups in Minnesota experience significant cancer disparities.

Objectives: The Somali Women's Breast Cancer Project aims to increase basic knowledge and awareness of breast cancer, and increase breast cancer screening rates for Somali women who are 40 or older.

Methods: Focus groups were conducted with Somali women to better understand the knowledge and attitudes of breast cancer in the community. These data were used to develop a culturally appropriate program to address breast health disparities, including: a module on breast health for use in home visit sessions, community education forums, and Somali-language videos.

Results: Focus groups revealed intense fear and numerous myths about breast cancer, as well as little awareness of screening methods. Since September 2005, 12,000 Somalis were reached through video broadcast, and Somali community health workers (CHWs) reached nearly 300 women in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area through home visits. Pre- and post-tests administered to women showed significant gains in knowledge. Research is ongoing to determine long-term knowledge retention and changes in screening behaviors.

Conclusion: In a refugee community with high stigma attached to breast cancer, program success is greatly dependent upon small, private educational sessions led by CHWs.

Learning Objectives:
By the end of the session, the participant will be able to: Identify barriers to Somali refugees’ breast health; Understand the role of qualitative research in creating a culturally appropriate breast health program; Articulate successful methods for reaching a refugee community about a stigmatized health issue, such as breast cancer.

Keywords: Health Disparities, Refugees

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.