What is a CHA?

The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, through the Deep South Network and other programs, has built a more than 20 years infrastructure utilizing the Community Health Advisor (CHA) model to train women and men who are “natural helpers” to provide cancer awareness and early detection messages and resources to their communities.  The CHAs are further trained as research partners (CHARPs) to develop, implement, and evaluate multi-level participatory research and education programs that focuses on systems, agents of change and individuals in order to reduce cancer health disparities.  There have been more than 1200 CHARPs trained through Deep South Network and other projects to reach African Americans and other medically under-served to include cancer screening, healthy lifestyles, environmental evaluations, and community based research intervention.

Below is an example of some of the roles that the CHA/CHARPs have been trained:

  • To educate and support others in their community by:
    • Talking with them about the need for and benefits of early detection and cancer screening
    • Motivating them to be screened
    • Encouraging them as they go for screening
    • Talking with them about their fears
    • Helping them solve problems and work through other barriers to screening
    • Promoting screening and prevention messages for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer
    • Modeling positive behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs
    • Being a resource for answering or referring questions regarding cancer screening guidelines, procedures, and other information
    • Being a link to support services for cancer survivors
  • To identify, recruit, and consent a minimum number of men and/or women from your community to participate in two surveys (baseline and follow-up). The purpose of the survey is to gather baseline data.
  • To respect and protect confidentiality and to adhere to ethical guidelines set forth by the project and its sponsoring institutions
  • To complete training program ( usually 6 to 10 hours)
  • To attend and actively participate in monthly maintenance meetings and other project-related events
  • To keep current on research certifications
  • To be an advocate for the project
  • To attend the annual Deep South Network Institute

In addition to their roles, there are expectations of CHARPS:

  • To follow-up with contacts, repeat positive messages regarding screening and prevention, and encourage and support them in receiving their cancer screening
  • To establish and maintain partnerships with local churches, businesses, agencies, and healthcare organizations
  • To provide additional cancer awareness messages in your community (workplace/neighborhood/church) as opportunities arise
  • To keep and turn in activity records and to report activities in a timely manner
  • To participate in outreach activities based upon a Community Action Plan (CAP) developed by the CHARPs  and the County Network Partnership Group (NPG)
  • To use the County CHARP Coordinator, the NPG, and the Deep South Network as resources for technical assistance and advice
  • To serve as a role model by personally following American Cancer Society (ACS)/National Cancer Institute (NCI) guidelines for early detection of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer
  • To agree to abide by a process for resolution of conflict that may arise in the course of implementing the Deep South Network project

CHA Outcomes

Through the utilization of the CHA model, the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center Deep South Network Program, has been able to successfully have the following outcomes:

  • Identify, recruit and train over 1200 CHAs
  • Promote awareness, change behavior, screening
  • Effectively assist compliance with diagnostic and treatment recommendations
  • Increase minority participation in clinical trials
  • Develop and deliver culturally relevant cancer information
  • Implement evidence-based cancer prevention programs in underserved communities
  • Integrate healthy lifestyles in cancer prevention medicines
  • Conduct culturally relevant community outreach and community-based research intervention
  • Educate and translate research interventions in underserved communities
  • Link scientists to community
  • Build coalitions/Community Advisory Boards
  • Translate research in medically underserved communities
  • Train research staff and community members for cancer research
  • Ensure compliance of all state and federal regulations for administration and research
  • Serve as community liaison to CCC Scientists