Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio gets $650,000 Genentech grant to bring more Latinos into cancer, Alzheimer’s research

By Cliff Despres

SAN ANTONIO — Did you know that Latinos represent 18.5% of the U.S. population, but are less than 10% of those in federal cancer and drug studies?

This makes it hard for researchers to create treatments that work best for Latinos.

To engage more Latinos in research, the Salud America! program at UT Health San Antonio has received a three-year, $650,000 grant from Genentech to create Latino-focused recruitment strategies and systems for clinical trials in cancer treatment and Alzheimer’s disease.

Salud America!, established in 2007, produces culturally relevant multimedia research, tools and stories to fuel its digital network — over 400,000 moms and dads and health, community, and school leaders across the nation — to change systems and environments toward health equity, where everyone has a fair, just opportunity to be healthy.

The new funding, part of Genentech and The Genentech Foundation’s $16 million initiative to promote health equity and diversity in STEM, will help Salud America! expand its work into inclusive clinical trial promotion and recruitment.

“We are honored Genentech chose us for the important task of bringing more Latinos and diversity to cancer and Alzheimer’s clinical trials, which can help researchers save more lives,” said Amelie G. Ramirez, DrPH, director of Salud America! and the Institute for Health Promotion Research in the Department of Population Health Sciences at UT Health San Antonio.

Latinos suffer high rates of discrimination, and face barriers in access to health care, stable housing and transit, social support, healthy food and other health-promoting assets.

As a result, they suffer many health disparities. For example, Latinos have higher rates and worse outcomes than their white peers for liver, stomach and cervical cancers, and are 1.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

One solution is to enroll more Latinos in clinical trials.

In trials, researchers test life-saving treatments and prevention activities. But Latinos account for less than 10% of people in federal cancer clinical trials and fewer than 4% of U.S. Food and Drug Administration drug trials.

“Our Genentech support will allow us to use culturally relevant digital health communications, advocacy networks and clinical partnerships to promote health equity and advance clinical trials for cancer treatment and Alzheimer’s disease among Latinos,” Ramirez said.

Salud America! will work to:

  • improve Latino understanding of clinical trials and biobanking;
  • increase Latinos’ self and collective efficacy for enrolling in clinical trials and biobanking;
  • increase awareness of how unconscious biases and discrimination against Latinos curtails recruitment to clinical trials and biobanking;
  • improve patient-provider communication and trust; and
  • increase self and collective efficacy for participating in advocacy to promote policies and systems that reduce bias in health care settings and remove barriers to Latino participation in clinical trials and biobanking.

The effort will target Latinos at both the national and South Texas levels.

“Our national-level outreach will occur primarily via culturally relevant, mobile friendly, online educational materials to promote Latino participation in clinical trials and biobanking for cancer and Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Ramirez said. “We also will conduct a local-level pilot study to increase recruitment of Latino patients to cancer clinical trials.”

Salud America!’s new grant is one of 16 projects funded through Genentech’s Health Equity Innovation Fund. Another 24 projects are funded through “The Diverse Future of STEM Fund.”

“During the selection process, we prioritized applications that demonstrated principles of justice, diversity, equity and inclusion in the design of their projects, as well as efforts led by People of Color or that embraced deep partnership and power-sharing with historically marginalized communities,” said Kristin Campbell Reed, executive director of corporate and employee giving and The Genentech Foundation.

“By leveraging charitable giving to uncover and address the root causes of disparities in health care and education, and working together to commit to change ─ I believe we have a real chance at true progress.”

Learn more about Salud America! at www.salud-america.org.

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About Salud America!

Salud America! is a national Latino health equity organization that creates culturally relevant and research-based stories, videos and tools to inspire people to start and support healthy changes to policies, systems and environments where Latino children and families can equitably live, learn, work and play. Latinos are a rising U.S. powerhouse, but they face barriers to be their healthiest and suffer high rates of obesity and other health disparities. Salud America! and its award-winning multimedia communications help our social and online network — more than 400,000 moms and dads, providers, and community and school leaders — push for healthy changes in schools and communities for Latino and all kids. Salud America! is led by health disparities researcher Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez and supported by a passionate team of communicators at the Institute for Health Promotion Research in the Department of Population Health Sciences at UT Health San Antonio, thanks to funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Visit Salud America! at salud-america.org or on social media @SaludAmerica.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, also referred to as UT Health San Antonio, is one of the country’s leading health sciences universities and is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. With missions of teaching, research, patient care and community engagement, its schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have graduated more than 37,000 alumni who are leading change, advancing their fields, and renewing hope for patients and their families throughout South Texas and the world. To learn about the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.



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