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School of Community and Global Health receives $1.5 million for anti-smoking research

Monday, September 27, 2010

Researchers from the School of Community and Global Health at Claremont Graduate University have received $1.5 million in grant money to develop and test a program aimed at reducing smoking among young adult Pacific Islanders in Southern California.

Paula Palmer, Claremont Graduate UniversityThe five-year project, funded by the National Cancer Institute, is part of a larger $4 million grant that addresses cancer health disparities among Pacific Islanders.  Partnering in the project are colleagues from Cal State Fullerton and community organizations representing Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans, Chamorros, and Marshallese throughout Southern California.

"Our research will result in the first theory-based, culturally attuned smoking cessation program to target young adult Pacific Islanders," said Paula Healani Palmer, associate professor and director of Global Health Programs at CGU. "We're very excited about this opportunity to make an impact on the high smoking rate in this population.”

Pacific Islanders in the U.S. smoke at a rate of nearly double the national average, yet evidence-based smoking cessation programs tailored to them do not exist, Palmer said. As a result, they are at increased risk of developing certain cancers, heart disease and complications from diabetes, she explained.

"They are off the chart," she said.

A challenge in crafting anti-smoking campaigns for Pacific Islanders is that the population is geographically dispersed. Reaching them is incredibly difficult. The SCGH team will address that problem by building a campaign that can be delivered through cell phones and social media networks.

Palmer said the program will send customized messages to participants tailored to intrapersonal factors, social and environmental influences and their motivations for wanting to stop smoking. The timing of the messages can also be personalized so smokers receive them during the hours they are most likely to light up.

Palmer has also recently received funding from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program in California to study tobacco use among South Asian immigrants, another population woefully underrepresented in tobacco control research. 

SCGH Dean Andy Johnson, Associate Professor Bin Xie, multimedia specialist James Pike, PhD student Melanie Sabado, and community coordinator Cevadne Lee will join Palmer in the research.

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