MPH student wins grant to study breast cancer awareness in Tanzania
Second-year Master’s in Public Health student Rebecca Pyuzza has won a $7,200 Cancer Epidemiology Education in Special Population (CEESP) Award from the National Institute of Health's National Cancer Institute. She will conduct a summer project aimed at improving breast cancer awareness and screening in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
Roughly one in three women still lack basic literacy skills in Tanzania, and that can have have a negative influence on many aspects of society including public health, Pyuzza said. Dar-es-Salaam is the former capital and the largest city in the East African coastal nation.
"Research has proven that improving and developing health literacy can improve lives and reduce health inequities,” she said. Pyuzza is a student in the MPH program in Public Health Practice and Policy (online), which is run by Dr. Negin Fouladi, who is also Pyuzza's advisor.The CEESP award is given to students to conduct research in U.S. minority and global settings in the area of cancer research for up to 15 weeks in summer.
In 2011, about a half-million women died from breast cancer, according to the World Health Organization. More than half of those who died were living in less-developed countries.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer after cervical cancer, and the second leading cause of cancer mortality among women in Tanzania, according to the Susan G Komen organization.
When Tanzanians do get a breast cancer diagnosis, it is already at the advanced stage — III or IV — when treatment is less effective and outcomes are poor.
Pyuzza’s project will collect data on the effects of health literacy and its correlation to seeking breast cancer screening by administering several surveys to Tanzanian women.
A first questionnaire will consist of question types like: “select a response from the answer choices provided” and “Yes/No or Don’t know.” The second type of data collection will be a focus group discussion, where the respondents will be asked a series five open-ended questions to build from information gathered in the first questionnaire.
Understanding a disease and how it impacts a population is the first step to recognizing how to tackle the illness, Pyuzza said. Her research proposal will provide that information and will guide the conversation in how to better provide breast cancer awareness to the women of Tanzania.
“The data collected from this research will provide knowledge and understanding of citizens in Tanzania as it relates to Breast Cancer Awareness and Screening,” she said.
The MPH in Public Health Practice in Policy, which is offered by the Department of Health Services Administration, provides working professionals with essential knowledge, tools, and resources to successfully address the critical issues facing health care organizations. The program is offered online, with a total of six weekend sessions held at the UMD College Park campus, and can be completed in as little as 24 months without taking leave time from work.