Cancer prevention programs coming to communities across Florida 

The UF Health Cancer Center is joining with leading Florida cancer centers — Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Health System and Moffitt Cancer Center — to fund four grants that will bring cancer prevention and detection education to high-risk Florida communities.

A man stands inside a red giant inflatable colon.
A man checks out a giant inflatable colon designed to raise awareness and provide education on the importance of regular screenings to prevent colorectal cancer in the UF Health Shands Hospital Atrium in 2018. One of the community grants funded this year will bring the educational experience to three locations in the region.

The community grants will support new and ongoing cancer screening and prevention projects across the state this year. They include a health fair to help people quit smoking, free mammograms and a big walk-through inflatable colon that shows tumor growth, among other initiatives.

The recipients are nonprofit groups and part of the Florida Regional Cancer Control Collaborative, which consists of stakeholders in various regions that strive to meet the goals in the Florida Cancer Plan.   

The effort is part of an ongoing program by the Florida Department of Health with funds from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Florida residents bear the second highest cancer burden in the country; between 2019 and 2021, 138,174 Floridians died of cancer, according to the department. About 1.6 million new cancer cases are reported each year in the United States, according to the CDC. 

“These partnerships are an effective way to leverage resources and organizations to empower more people to take early action against cancer,” said Erin N. Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate director of Community Outreach and Engagement at Sylvester and co-chair of the Florida Cancer Control and Research Advisory Council. “In particular, many of the programs focus on at-risk populations, including smokers, the elderly and people of color who often lack access to information and medical care that can help them prevent cancer or detect it early.” 

“This funding is a unique opportunity for Florida academic cancer centers and the Florida Regional Cancer Control Collaboratives to advance our shared commitment to prevention and early detection to improve the health of Floridians,” said Susan T. Vadaparampil, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate center director of Community Outreach, Engagement and Equity at Moffitt.

Ramzi Salloum, Ph.D.

“This initiative allows Florida cancer collaboratives to address cancer-related issues that are relevant to the local community and ensures the funds are used to tackle the most pressing needs and challenges faced by the people in that region,” said Ramzi Salloum, Ph.D., associate director for community outreach and engagement at the UF Health Cancer Center. “These funds will be directed toward improving access to cancer prevention and screening services, which is particularly important in areas where individuals may face barriers to health care, such as financial constraints or geographical distance.” 

The community grants, each about $16,000, will support the following collaboratives: 

  1. North Central Florida Cancer Control Collaborative. The star of this show is an inflatable, walk-through colon with tumors called the “Small Town, Giant Colon Experience 2.0.” The contraption teaches people 40 years and older about colorectal cancer and why screening is important. Three events are scheduled in three locations yet to be determined. The group serves the following counties: Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Putnam, Suwannee and Union. 
  2. Northwest Florida Cancer Control Collaborative. The endeavor aims to reduce tobacco use to reduce breast cancer in women, especially in rural areas of the following counties: Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Liberty, Leon, Madison, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton and Washington. Programs in development include workshops to help people quit tobacco, a community health fair and public service information on the hazards of smoking. 
  3. East Central Florida Cancer Control Collaborative. Administered by the Health Council of East Central Florida, the group seeks to promote cancer prevention in seven counties: Brevard, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, Lake, Sumter and Marion. Programs emphasize cancer literacy, screenings for at-risk patients, early disease intervention and survivor support.
  4. Southwest Florida Cancer Control Collaborative. This effort focuses on how to protect women against breast and cervical cancer, with focus on Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties. Three community events are in the works, featuring free health screenings, pap testing and mammograms.  
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