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Quality Life MN: Weaving a Web of Support around Colorectal Cancers and Heart Disease

African Americans have experienced the shortest life expectancy compared to Caucasians for the past 100+ years, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics. From diabetes, various cancers and cardiovascular diseases, African Americans are in the top percentile of those impacted by health disparities. Why is that? And what can people do to reduce their risk? What can YOU do?

Heart disease – or, coronary heart disease – is a term used to describe several problems related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, or atherosclerosis. As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow, thus creating a risk for heart attack or stroke. Quality Life MN: Weaving a Web of Support around Colorectal Cancers and Heart Disease.

Colorectal cancer or colon cancer, rectal cancer, or bowel cancer, is the development of cancer from the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine). It is due to the abnormal growth of cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Signs and symptoms may include blood in the stool, a change in bowel movements, weight loss, and feeling tired all the time.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. and worldwide- with Colorectal Cancers following as the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related deaths. African Americans are 3 times as likely to die from a heart attack or stroke than their Caucasian counterparts. Mortality rates for colorectal cancers aren’t much better.

“45% of African Americans are more likely to die from colorectal cancers than any other ethnic group in the U.S.”, says Dr. Charles Rogers, PhD.

Both conditions are preventable, treatable, with early screening. It’s the reason Dr. Rogers partnered with the ANIKA Foundation to conduct a research study aimed at reducing mortality rates through increased intervention and support.

Quality Life MN is a dissemination intervention framework designed to reduce Colorectal Cancers (CRC) and Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in the African American community.

The study, made possible by a pilot grant from the University of Minnesota’s Program in Health Disparities Research (PHDR), evaluates the feasibility of a framework to improve preventative health behaviors and early detection screening for CVD and CRC among 40 African men and women in Minnesota. In addition to free blood pressure and fecal immuno-chemical testing (FIT) that can be administered in the privacy of one’s home, the program incorporates a healthy living program supported with health coaching and support group sessions with a view to improving adherence to the program and increase screening rates and early detection.


Risk Factors

CVD and CRC share similar risk factors including, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet. Drinking more than the suggested amounts of alcohol i.e. 2 drinks for men, 1 drink for women per day, also increases risk.

The 35-45 age group is a critical time period for African Americans where health is concerned. Nearly one fourth of women who died of heart disease were between the ages of 35 and 44. And while men have higher CVD rates, it is the leading cause of death in women. Overall, African Americans are diagnosed with CRC-younger and at more advanced stages-than their Caucasian counterparts.


Making the Connection

The team hopes to increase awareness and provide opportunities for social connections through it’s support group sessions and overall dissemination effort.”Connectivity is key”, says Anika Robbins, the Executive Director of The ANIKA Foundation and the community partner on the project. “If we can connect people to resources in their community, we can reduce fear and distrust, by helping them advocate for their own health.”

The program is conducted at the Robbins Urban Wellness Retreat in North Minneapolis. The Peoples Center, located in the Cedar Riverside community, are also partners on the project processing completed FIT tests.

“Overall, we want people to improve their quality of life by making the necessary changes in their lifestyle to decrease their risk for disease,” says Dr. Rogers.

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© 2023 by Quality Life MN. Created by NdidiMarie Grafix for The Anika Foundation.


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