UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center partnership to help at-risk, underserved Alabamians

A partnership between the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center and Lung Cancer Alliance will expand community health education in the Deep South to reach Alabamians most at-risk for lung cancer.

Written by: Kendra Carter

Media contact: Beena Thannickal

claudia hardy bodyClaudia Hardy, director of Community Outreach in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center is working in partnership with Lung Cancer Alliance through a $1.6 million grant they received from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation to reach underserved Alabamians who are most at-risk for lung cancer. The three-year grant establishes the Alabama Lung Cancer Awareness, Screening and Education program (ALCASE) which aims to address the widespread racial and socioeconomic disparities with regard to lung cancer, especially predominant in Alabama and in the Deep South.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women across the United States, killing more people than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. In Alabama, lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths and is No. 3 in the number of new cases diagnosed each year.

The ALCASE program combines Lung Cancer Alliance’s expertise in lung cancer screening and expands the Cancer Center’s successful Deep South Network Community Health Advisor model to decrease lung cancer disparities in underserved Black Belt counties and in Jefferson County. Through education and awareness, the purpose of the program is to encourage participation and increase screenings by providing community-based support to local health care facilities.

“As the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Deep South, UAB has an obligation to address our region’s cancer burden,” said Michael J. Birrer, M.D., Ph.D., director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. Lung cancer screening holds the greatest promise for finding the disease early, when the possibility of a cure is greatest. However, only 4 percent of individuals nationally are screened for lung cancer each year.

“There is a great lack of awareness about the potential benefits of screenings and, for many, a reluctance to engage in the screening process. We hope using the successful CHA model will help improve screening rates among these at-risk individuals.”

The CHA model is a proven, community-based health promotion approach that identifies and trains “natural helpers” from the community who then seek to improve the health status of individuals from that community. For more than 20 years, the Cancer Center’s Deep South Network has trained more than 1,200 CHAs and has had significant success in the areas of breast, cervical and colon cancers. ALCASE expands the use of these trusted and trained community leaders to lung cancer.   

ALCASE intends to improve the knowledge and awareness of lung cancer and is committed to increase lung cancer screenings in six rural Black Belt counties — Sumter, Green, Hale, Marengo, Choctaw and Dallas — as well as in Jefferson County.

“The goal of ALCASE is to reduce the burden of lung cancer among high-risk, underserved communities through capacity building, outreach, education, screening and support,” said Claudia Hardy, MPA, director of Community Outreach in the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

ALCASE program leaders will partner with existing community resources, like Alabama’s smoking cessation programs, identify Screening Centers of Excellence, and provide financial and transportation assistance to help eligible individuals access and afford lung cancer screenings.

The Cancer Center will begin recruiting and training up to 150 CHAs in the seven-county program area in February 2019. “We are recruiting men and women of all races and backgrounds over the age of 19 to join us in these efforts,” Hardy said.

“Lung Cancer Alliance is excited to be working with the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center on this important effort,” said Maureen Rigney, LICSW, director of Support Initiatives for Lung Cancer Alliance. “We recognize the great burden of lung cancer in an area with limited resources, and are committed to working with partners at the state level to establish a sustainable infrastructure to improve access to lifesaving screening and high-quality care where it is critically needed.” 

The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Community Outreach Staff will host events in the targeted counties in the month of November to bring awareness of November as Lung Cancer Awareness Month and to introduce the ALCASE program to the communities.

Nov. 5: Hale County

11 a.m.-noon at the Third Street Church of God (Fellowship Hall), 1102 Third Street, Greensboro.

Nov. 7: Sumter County

Noon-1 p.m. at the Sumter County Health Department Conference Room, 1121 North Washington Street, Livingston.

Nov. 8: Jefferson County

10-11 a.m. at the JCCEO Headquarters, 300 Eighth Ave. W, Birmingham.

Nov. 8: Marengo County

1-2 p.m. at the Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital Conference Room, 105 Highway 80 East, Demopolis.

Nov. 8: Greene County

10-11 a.m. at the Green County Health Department, 412 Morrow Ave., Eutaw.

Nov. 9: Choctaw County

9 a.m.-noon at Choctaw General Hospital, 401 Vanity Fair Drive, Butler.

To learn more about the ALCASE program, community events or becoming a community health advisor, contact Claudia Hardy at 205-975-5454 or