WASHINGTON--The Center for the Advancement of Health is working on a 3-year cancer initiative whose purpose is to increase support for psycho-social and biobehavioral research and services for cancer patients, said executive director Jessie Gruman, PhD. The Center was founded in 1992 by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.
In an interview with Oncology News International, Dr. Gruman said that the scientific community has sought solutions to diseases such as cancer by looking for the biologic causes. Yet there are nonbiologic factors (social isolation, socioeconomic class, and depression) that also affect health outcomes and that have been neglected.
Evidence shows that these factors influence morbidity and mortality across diseases, Dr. Gruman said, but this concept has found little support in mainstream biologic research, which explores each disease separately and looks for a single etiology.
The Center's Cancer Initiative, now in its second year, is an attempt to help cancer patients by recognizing some of these psychosocial factors. As part of this initiative, the Center is currently directing three separate projects.
The first project involves training cancer patients to be their own best advocates. There is evidence that individuals who are actively engaged in maintaining their own health and medical care enjoy an improved quality of life and better health outcomes. The Center is currently developing a resource guide and training program for use at local and national levels to support patient advocates.
The second project involves developing and implementing psychosocial services that can be used as models for the rest of the country. The purpose is to identify the most important elements of supportive and psychosocial services, and to make those elements standard in cancer treatment and care.