Hunter Professor Awarded $245,000 State Grant for Breast Cancer Education to Help Korean Immigrant Women

Jin Young Seo, a professor at Hunter College School of Nursing, has been awarded a $245,000 grant from New York State to develop a breast cancer risk-reduction education program that focuses on Korean immigrant women – for whom the disease is the leading cause of death.

The grant was among $3 million in awards announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for nine research and education projects across New York State that will delve into breast cancer causes, prevention, detection, screening, treatment and new educational strategies.

“This is important work that will help save lives,” said Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz. “We are pleased that the state appreciates the nature of health disparities and recognizes the need to educate women in the Korean immigrant community about breast cancer. The grant award represents yet another example of CUNY’s dedicated faculty engaged in research in the public interest with direct benefit to our communities.”

“I am honored to receive this grant as a junior faculty,” said Seo, a Korean immigrant, researcher, registered nurse and nurse practitioner who has been an assistant professor for four years. “I am also very excited to start this project to help the Korean immigrant community.”

For 10 years, Seo said, she has researched Asian immigrant women’s health services utilization, health disparities, health care barriers, behaviors regarding prenatal care and cancer screening, and health education.

The project, to be conducted in collaboration with Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York Inc., will develop a “culturally tailored” educational intervention – the Korean Breast Cancer Risk Reduction Program, which will set four goals for participating women: healthy weight, physically active lifestyle, healthy diet with limited alcohol consumption, and breast cancer screening and adherence. It will include “a group-based lifestyle intervention incorporating traditional Korean health beliefs,” tailored for risk reduction, with eight weeks of group education sessions led by a trained lifestyle coach and 16 weeks of follow-up sessions involving smartphone applications and calls and texts from coaches, according to the project description.

Low screening rates, health-related beliefs, lack of awareness of breast cancer screening and lack of a primary care physician are all likely causes of an increase in Korean-American breast cancer rates, according to the abstract, which stated, “We expect that our innovative educational intervention will increase KA women’s breast cancer knowledge, support their maintenance of a healthier life style, increase breast cancer screening rates and reduce the estimated risk of developing breast cancer.”

Seo, who is actively involved in local Korean community organizations and has led several studies working with Korean immigrant women, is principal investigator on the multidisciplinary research team, which includes as co-principal investigator Hunter School of Nursing professor So-Hyun Park, a registered nurse and oncology nurse practitioner who has researched cancer survivorship and interventions focused on nutrition and exercise behaviors. The team also includes community health workers, researchers and clinicians in nursing, medicine and public health.

The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 23 MacArthur (“Genius”) grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields.  The University comprises 25 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.  The University serves more than 275,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.

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