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<p>Cancer knows no boundaries. It strikes men and women. Rich and poor. Young and old.</p>

IU Simon Cancer Center priority: reduce cancer incidences, mortality among state’s diverse populations

One difference, however, is the frequency and severity of the disease when diagnosed. Too often minority groups and rural area populations face higher cancer incidences and higher mortality rates.


For example, prostate and lung cancer rates in Indiana are higher among African-American men than Caucasian men, while colon cancer strikes both African-American men and women more frequently than Caucasians in Indiana.


As part of a continuing effort to improve the health and well-being of racial, ethnic and rural area populations, the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center has established a new Office of Health Disparities, Research and Outreach. Rivienne Shedd-Steele has been named its director.


Shedd-Steele and colleagues will develop programs that enhance patient-provider communication, improve cultural and linguistic competency in delivering health services, and develop a systematic approach to improving the coordination and utilization of research and outcome evaluations. Shedd-Steele will work with community partners and support activities that address, and hopefully eliminate, racial and ethnic health disparities through community-level activities that promote health, reduce risks, and increase access to and utilization of preventive health care and treatment services.


“We want to bring up-to-date cancer prevention and control information to everyone in Indiana, whether they’re African-American, Latino, or people living in rural areas,” Shedd-Steele said. “We want to more broadly reach into underserved populations and increase access to cancer research for those individuals.”


Overall, the people of Indiana score poorly among others in the nation in terms of their health:



  • Indiana ranks 39th among the states for the amount of people who exercise on a regular basis. Latinos and African-Americans in Indiana are the least likely population segment to exercise.



  • Indiana ranks ninth in obesity in the nation. African-Americans have the highest obesity rate in the state.



  • Indiana ranks fifth highest for the number of smokers in the nation. African-Americans smoke more than any other population group in the state.


“We’ll help people understand that they can make a difference in their own lives by exercising, eating right, and by not smoking or quitting altogether – all of which help reduce a person’s chances of developing cancer,” Shedd-Steele said.


Shedd-Steele has a long history of working with diverse community groups and building collaborative relationships.


Most recently, she was the outreach and diversity coordinator at the IU Simon Cancer Center, and she has served as the partnership program coordinator for the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service (NCI/CIS) Midwest Region. In her role with NCI/CIS, she collaborated state-wide with community partner organizations to deliver cancer control and education programs to help improve the health of underserved populations.


Prior to joining NCI/CIS, she was the minority cancer awareness director for the Little Red Door Cancer Agency. At the Little Red Door, Shedd-Steele designed and implemented minority outreach programs with an emphasis on breast, cervical and prostate cancer education, as well as diet, nutrition and cancer prevention among African-Americans and Hispanics.


Shedd-Steele has earned several awards, including the 2006 NCI/CIS Spirit of the CIS Award, Best Education Program Practice Award from the National Black Leadership Initiative on Cancer and the National Cancer Institute’s Award in Recognition of Outstanding Minority Cancer Education and Community Outreach.