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WSU health disparities expert seeks to increase breast cancer screening among Arab women

April 21, 2014

WSU health disparities expert seeks to increase breast cancer screening among Arab women

A researcher with Wayne State’s School of Social Work is embarking on the first-ever study comparing cultural barriers to breast cancer screening in the United States and Israel.

Kim Jaffee, associate professor of social work, has received funding from the university’s Center for Social Work Research and the Dearborn, MI-based nonprofit ACCESS to study psychosocial factors in Arab women that may be creating barriers to breast cancer detection. For her study, she will spend a two-month summer sabbatical in Israel collaborating with researchers at the University of Haifa.

According to Jaffee, Arab women are disproportionately afflicted by breast cancer both in the United States and in Israel. In the United States, various studies show that cancer is diagnosed at later stages for Arab Americans than for other U.S. populations, possibly because of lower utilization of mammograms by Arab women.

Working with ACCESS, the largest Arab American human services nonprofit in the United States, Jaffee will gather survey data from 200 Arab women in metropolitan Detroit assessing medical mistrust and barriers to breast screening. Among other things, this data will measure fear of the screening process and negative results, embarrassment and stigmatization, language barriers, lack of knowledge, and transportation, economic, cultural and religious barriers. Jaffee’s colleagues at the University of Haifa have gathered the same data for a sample of Israeli Arab women.

After comparing the U.S. and Israeli data sets, Jaffee and her colleagues hope to develop culturally sensitive interventions that can be used to increase screening among Arab women in both countries. Jaffee said the study illustrates the important perspectives that social work brings to epidemiological research.

“Social workers are acutely aware of the ways that cultural competence creates a context in which people within oppressed groups can be healthier,” Jaffee said. “Looking at the ways cultural barriers impede people from accessing health care services is a critical first step in improving their outcomes.”

The high rate of Arab migration between Southeast Michigan and the Middle East makes Wayne State the ideal partner for this study, Jaffee added.

“In addition to identifying how Arab women’s utilization of breast cancer screening tools differs from those of other women, we are eager to identify similarities in utilization between Arab women in Israel and in the United States,” Jaffee said. “As a result of traveling back and forth, these women may find themselves seeking care in both countries.”

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