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Partnership to focus on Native Americans

Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Indian Health Service announced they will partner to develop programs to improve cancer education, prevention, research and treatment among Native Americans.

The specifics of the agreement remain to be worked out, but officials characterized it as an opportunity to build trust within Native American communities and devise cancer-related initiatives that are culturally appropriate.

“The values and traditions of Native American culture will inform and enhance our efforts to reduce the devastating burden of cancer, not only in Native communities but for everyone,” said Rodney Haring, assistant professor of oncology in the Office of Cancer Health Disparities Research at Roswell Park.

Haring also is a member of the Seneca Nation and a delegate to the American Indian and Alaska Native Health Research Advisory Council within the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the Indian Health Service.

Roswell and the Indian Health Service agreed to collaborate in research on health disparities; cancer risk reduction, prevention and early detection; cancer care; community outreach; and career opportunities in oncology. Planning “roundtable” events are planned to elicit ideas among Native Americans in Western New York and elsewhere.

The agreement resembles other Indian Health Service arrangements with hospitals in the country, said Dr. Susan Karol, acting chief medical officer for the Great Plains Area of the Indian Health Service. She also said the agency may initiate similar collaborations with additional cancer centers, but the partnership with a cancer center like Roswell Park is a first for the agency.

Statistics indicate the need for better educational and risk-reduction initiatives. For instance, Native Americans suffer higher death rates for such conditions as lung and kidney cancer.