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Wizdom Powell Hammond

The recent report of the President’s Cancer Panel – a group of experts that shapes the nation’s cancer agenda – focused on “America’s Demographic and Cultural Transformation: Implications for Cancer.”

One of these experts was Wizdom Powell Hammond, Ph.D., an assistant professor of health behavior and health education at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

She conducts research that spans the individual, psychological factors that affect health behavior in minority populations. She examines issues including how sociological and environmental issues affect health status, health behavior and the use of health care.

In September 2011, Hammond was named to the 2011-2012 class of White House Fellows.

“There are lots of things happening at once – it’s a perfect storm to create cancer disparities,” she says. “What often happens under this level of complexity is that we trade off the structural issues – in an attempt to remove the visible or economic barriers to good health – but don’t address longstanding cultural and relationship characteristics that also influence disparities. The panel addressed all of these issues and didn’t shy away from the complexity this approach creates.”

The report concludes that cancer incidence among minority populations is projected to nearly double between 2010 and 2030 while increasing 31 percent among the non-Hispanic white population. At the same time, the health-care community’s understanding of cancer risk, progression and outcomes is primarily based on studies that do not include the diverse racial, ethnic and cultural variables that exist today in the United States.

Hammond says she brought to the process an understanding of the key issues plaguing minority communities in terms of both health-care use and clinical trial participation – things that happen during care that contribute to cancer disparities. “It was an honor and a privilege to give a voice to those communities and speak on their behalf.”

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