Population Health and Cancer Control

Program Leaders:  Steven Branstetter, Ph.D. and Joshua Muscat, Ph.D.
The Population Health and Cancer Control (PHCC) Program promotes basic and translational sciences research within the research themes of cancer risk reduction, receipt of optimal cancer care services, and promotion of cancer survivorship with particular emphases on rural and underserved regions of Pennsylvania  (PA) and US health disparities. PHCC seeks to reduce cancer burden in the large 27-county Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute (PSHCI) catchment area across the cancer control continuum from prevention to survivorship. The mission of PHCC is executed through its research infrastructure, organizational policies and affiliations, and its PSHCI membership base focused around key research themes.  The key research themes include the reduction of behaviorally-based cancer risk and reducing cancer disparities through optimal use of health services in communities.  
PHCC was formed in July 2011 and has identified three programmatic areas of emphases:
1.       Tobacco, nicotine use and dependence
2.       Patient access to screening and cancer treatment
3.       Technological and methodological innovations to promote patient survivorship support in rural and low density populations
Through its interdisciplinary membership, PHCC seeks to address leading cancer control issues relevant to the geographically diverse PSHCI catchment area that includes both rural areas and mid-size urban regions. The PSHCI catchment area is characterized by higher than expected rates of colorectal cancer incidence and mortality; a lag in decline of breast cancer mortality as compared to the rest of the U.S.; a high prevalence of obesity and tobacco use among all age-groups; underuse of cancer screening and preventative health services related to medical professional shortage areas; and increasing rates of skin cancers linked to rural agricultural labor and industry. Some of the documented excess cancer burden in Central PA relative to comparison populations stems from PA rank as 3rd in the U.S. in proportion of older adults.  However, age-adjustment alone does not remove our regional disparities in colorectal and breast cancer and underscores the need for interventions that reflect lifestyle, culture and access to care.
The PHCC Program holds semi-annual research retreats located on the Hershey and University Park campuses to bring together cancer control researchers and to identify leading priority research initiatives. Presentations and the agenda from the most recent retreat can be found by clicking here.  Membership is divided between Hershey and University Park campuses. Recently, seed funding initiative was implemented through PSHCI to stimulate research collaborations and judged by merit for potential future National Institute of Health (NIH) proposal submission. Click here for the projects that received pilot funding.
PHCC maintains strategic organizational collaboration with key Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State University-wide resources that contribute to the mission including the formation of multidisciplinary teams with participants from the College, the University, and outside institutions. Collaborating organizations include the PSU CTSI Community Engagement Core, the Social Sciences Research Institute, the Methodology Center, and the Population Sciences Institute. PHCC has contributed over 200 publications to the evidence-based literature. Click here for a list of publications.

Click Here for a Complete List of Members

The Community Sciences and Health Outcomes Core (CSHO) is the primary resource by which the PHCC Program supports research development. Directed by Dr. Eugene J. Lengerich since 2010, the mission of the  CSHO Core is to facilitate the community-based and health-outcomes research of investigators at Penn State.  The CSHO has expertise in research related to community engagement, epidemiology, health services, patient-reported outcomes, and dissemination. The CSHO Core uses a community-engaged approach with culturally diverse populations, including Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic individuals. Unlike many NCI-designated cancer centers which are located in an urban setting, the PSHCI catchment area includes communities widely disbursed along the urban-rural continuum – ranging from small cities with an urban population to isolated rural communities. The CSHO core also maintains a repository of state and national data from clinical, registry and survey studies; the repository is used by investigators for descriptive analysis in research proposals and studies. The CSHO Core is co-located on the third floor of the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute and the second floor of the Academic Support Building.

The CSHO Core coordinates two community/academic partnerships, the Northern Appalachia Cancer Network (NACN) and the Harrisburg Community Cancer Network (HCCN).  The mission of each network is to develop, test and disseminate evidence-based strategies that reduce the risk of cancer and poor cancer outcomes among medically underserved populations.  Each network has a Community Advisory Board that directs and monitors its activities. Established in 1992 and continuously funded by the National Cancer Institute since that time, the NACN is focused upon cancer control among residents of northern Appalachia, which include 52 of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania and 14 of the 62 counties in New York.  With over 30 manuscripts in the scientific literature, the NACN was recognized nationally in 2009 by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities for its engaged scholarship in cancer prevention and control.   Established in 2008, the HCCN works with community-based organizations, hospitals, clinics, and government entities in the city of Harrisburg, the state capital of Pennsylvania.  In 2011, Harrisburg had a population of 49,528, with 52.4% being African American and 18.0% Latino/Hispanic; 30.2% were below the federal poverty level.  In 2011, the HCCN was funded by the American Cancer Society to establish a network of Community Health Workers as trained lay health educators and advocates for residents of the city of Harrisburg.  You can find recent developments of the CSHO and HCCN in the  Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute eNewsletters at http://www.pennstatehershey.org/web/cancer/home/aboutus/enewsletter.