CHDI Research Activities and Outcomes

CHDI develops research on cancer disparities with rural, African American, American Indian and Latino communities, and helps UW researchers partner effectively with underserved communities. We engage community in all of our research, employing a full community-based participatory approach where possible, placing community-defined needs, partnership and capacity building at the center.

Our research, outreach and education arms are intertwined and inform each other, with the greatest potential to reduce disparities with underserved populations.

CHDI research Venn diagram, showing the three overlapping circles "Research," "Outreach," and Education," with the center being "Greatest impact with underserved populations.

The CHDI team works with UWCCC members, other UW faculty, and community organizations to conduct collaborative research on cancer health disparities. We have experience in the following areas:

  • engaging community organizations and forming partnerships
  • developing research designs
  • writing grant proposals
  • implementing community-based research
  • preparing publications

For more information, please contact the CHDI office at

Research Highlights

Save the Life of Somebody You Know

With 100 Black Men of Madison, CHDI conducted community-based focus groups to build a prostate cancer screening decision making intervention with African American men. The tool aims to help men understand their prostate cancer screening options, and encourage them to ask questions, talk with providers, and make decisions that honor their own values and preferences. We then tested the tool in the community and found promising patterns (analysis in progress). PI: Elizabeth Jacobs, MD, MAPP; Co-PI: Tracy Downs, MD, FACS.

A Community Based Approach to Reducing Rural Cancer Disparities

With American Cancer Society funding, CHDI partnered with the Adams County Cancer Awareness Team and the Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative to modify Cancer Clear & Simple for broader dissemination and test its efficacy in two rural community settings. We measured cancer knowledge and reported heathy behaviors, and cancer screenings before the intervention, immediately following the intervention and 6 months later – and confirmed reported screenings with providers across Wisconsin. We found that CC&S increased cancer knowledge and healthy behaviors compared to a control education program. PI: Elizabeth Jacobs, MD, MAPP.

Barriers and Opportunities for Breast Cancer Screening and Risk Reduction Among African American Women

We are assessing perceptions of personal breast cancer risk, understanding of screening recommendations, and awareness of opportunities to reduce risk among our region’s African American women. We conducted focus groups in 6 counties in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois where about 90% of the region’s African American women live, and worked with the UW Survey Center to transcribe and code findings. We are now utilizing these findings for disseminating a broader survey to women across this region. PIs: Ruth O’Regan, MD & Kristen Malecki, PhD, MPH.

Lipid Metabolism and Prostate Cancer Among African American Men

We are evaluating a lipid-based biomarker in blood serum, previously validated in mice models, to serve as an early alert mechanism for prostate cancer vulnerability. We aim to apply findings to develop African American community prevention interventions, and to incorporate the biomarker into clinical diagnostic and treatment decisions. PIs: Tracy Downs, MD, FACS & Rozalyn Anderson, PhD.

Future Directions

Moving forward, CHDI has particular interest in cancer screening navigation and informed decision-making research interventions, treatment and clinical research, Cancer Clear & Simple content expansion and further evaluation, and research on the relationship between social determinants and biomarkers in cancer disparities.

For more information, see our CHDI Profile.

If you are interested in working with us, please complete our research inquiry form (PDF opens in new tab).