Cancer Prevention in Action Grant Awarded to the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at Columbia University for Work in Staten Island

December 13, 2021
A group from Columbia and Richmond University Medical Center delivering sunscreen dispensers to a community farm at Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.

The Office of Community Outreach and Engagement (COE) at the Columbia University Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) has been awarded a new three-year grant by Cancer Prevention in Action (CPiA) of New York State Department of Health and Health Research, Inc. The award supports the HICCC’s work on skin cancer risk reduction and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination education in Staten Island. The HICCC is the first and only site in New York City to receive this competitive award by the CPiA program.

COE will use a policy, systems, and environmental change approach to reduce rates of skin cancer and increase rates of HPV vaccination in Staten Island. The team, led by COE Director Mary Beth Terry, PhD, will conduct activities centered around community education and mobilization, engaging local organizational and governmental decision makers, and paid, earned and social media outreach to disseminate key messages. CPiA aims to engage the community and community leaders in creating sustainable changes that shift norms and ultimately reduce cancer rates.

"COE is excited to partner with our community advisors and partners on Staten Island to focus on reducing the burden of cancer through programs that directly address cancer risk factors in adolescence and young adulthood,” says Dr. Terry, professor of epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and co-leader of the Cancer Population Science research program at the HICCC.

Compared to the other four boroughs of New York City, Staten Island has a higher incidence of melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. With CPiA, COE will work to reduce skin cancer rates in Staten Island by raising awareness about the dangers of indoor tanning and the importance of widespread adoption of sun safety practices like seeking shade and using sunscreen for skin cancer prevention.

With the CPiA program, COE has been working closely with local community organizations, schools, summer camps, and businesses to adopt sun safety policies with their staff and patrons. This fall, seven sites have designed and adopted sun safety policies. Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden, Children’s Aid- Goodhue Center, three Jewish Community Center (JCC) Cornerstones, Staten Island JCC Summer Day Camp, and the Richmond University Medical Center’s School-Based Health Center at Susan E. Wagner High School have adopted policies that encourage providing free sunscreen, displaying sun safety information, and providing sun safety training for staff.

 “Children’s Aid-Goodhue Center is excited to partner with Columbia University’s CPiA program,” says Ilene Pappert, director of Children’s Aid-Goodhue Center. “We know how important the issue of sun safety is for children in Staten Island. We have a great opportunity to teach children how to protect themselves from the sun while still having a lot of fun playing outside and swimming.”

Additional activities as part of the grant include community workshops for parents, adolescents, and children about the importance of sun safety, given that up to 80 percent of total lifetime ultraviolet exposure happens before the age of 18. COE’s CPiA program has also formed a working group with local students to create a social media communications campaign about sun safety, with the goal of educating student peers about skin cancer risk reduction behaviors.

COE’s CPiA program will also address the low rates of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination in adolescents across Staten Island. HPV can cause six different types of cancers, and is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine, typically administered as two to three doses for children and adolescents beginning as early as age nine, is cancer prevention. Among New York City’s five boroughs, Staten Island has the lowest rate of HPV vaccination rate for adolescents (ages 13 to 17) with only about 1 in 4 adolescents having completed the HPV vaccination series. COE’s CPiA program will work to improve awareness about the protective benefits of the HPV vaccine and increase vaccination rates by providing educational opportunities to community organizations, schools, and healthcare providers.

COE has partnered with Richmond University Medical Center (RUMC) and the Office of the Staten Island Borough President to complete the activities of this grant. These partners play a crucial role by making connections with local organizations to implement sun safety policies and deliver HPV vaccination education.

The Cancer Prevention in Action grant is funded by the New York State Department of Health and Health Research, Inc.

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About the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center Office of Community Outreach and Engagement (COE)

The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center Office of Community Outreach and Engagement (COE) brings together a team of experienced researchers, clinicians and community health educators.  Working with community stakeholders and community members, HICCC cancer patients, and their families, we are committed to reducing the burden of cancer. We strive to understand the needs of the communities and patients served by the HICCC, and work to remove access barriers to cancer prevention, screening, treatment and survivorship services.  

For more information about the program or to adopt a sun safety policy at your organization please contact Maya Lipsman, Project Director at: