Conexiones, a cancer education program based at New Mexico State University, is looking for Hispanic mothers recently diagnosed with cancer to participate in a study that will help evaluate the program’s effectiveness.
The program, originally called Enhancing Connections, was developed by Frances Marcus Lewis of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The program teaches diagnosed mothers self-care skills and parenting and communication skills to assist their children in coping with their mothers cancer, and has been found to help reduce anxiety and depression in both mothers diagnosed with cancer and their children.
Over the past two years, Rebecca Palacios, the program’s co-principal investigator and associate professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, has been collaborating with Lewis to adapt the program for Hispanic mothers. In 2016, a preliminary study was conducted to see if there was a need for such a cancer education program in the border region.
“We discovered there was a huge demand for this program when we interviewed diagnosed Hispanic mothers. They reported struggles in communicating about cancer with their children and worried about the short- and long-term impact their cancer might have on their children’s emotional well-being,” Palacios said.
“This program is particularly important for Hispanic women, because past studies have found that Hispanic women tend to experience more cancer-related distress and depression than other racial/ethnic groups. We also know that when a diagnosed mother experiences very high levels of distress her children are more likely to experience high levels of distress as well.”
Palacios said because the program was originally developed for and tested with non-Hispanic women of middle to high socioeconomic status, “we knew we had to adapt the program in order for it to be effective with our border population. We had to make sure the program was culturally relevant and understood by Hispanic mothers. Once we finished adapting the education materials, we translated the program to Spanish.”
After adapting the program for Hispanic mothers, researchers presented the program, renamed Conexiones, to Hispanic women in order to get their opinions and feedback on the program.
“While the overall feedback was very positive, they did recommend using warmer language and avoiding excessive use of the word ‘cancer’ during the educational sessions,” Palacios said. “We used these recommendations to further modify the Conexiones program so that it would be a good fit for the border population.”
In order to qualify for the program, participants must be Hispanic women diagnosed with early-stage cancer (stages 1-3) in the past eight months. She must also be a mother to a child ages 5 to 17 and live in either Doña Ana or El Paso counties. While the program is offered in both English and Spanish, the diagnosed mothers must be able to read and write in either language.
NMSU researchers are hoping to recruit 50 participants for this study.
The Conexiones program consists of five education sessions delivered across a period of eight weeks. All sessions are delivered entirely by telephone to accommodate diagnosed mothers who may be feeling too ill or weak to travel to an intervention site. Each session is about an hour long. Participants will also be asked to complete two questionnaires, one at the beginning of the study and one at the end. Each questionnaire is about 45 minutes long.
Palacios said there are several benefits to participating in the Conexiones study. In addition to the potential therapeutic effects of the program, participants will receive a $10 gift card for every session they complete for a total of $50 in gift cards. Participants will also receive a $25 gift card for each of the two questionnaires they complete, for a total of $50 in gift cards. All participants in the study will also receive a resource booklet listing various cancer resources and services in the borderland.
To learn more about the study or to check whether you are eligible to participate, call Palacios at 575-646-4309 or Karoline Sondgeroth at 575-646-5065. If you know someone who may benefit from this program please refer them to Palacios.
Palacios said the study is an attempt to bring more evidence-based cancer education programs to serve Hispanics in the border region. The program is funded by U54 NMSU/Fred Hutch Partnership grant from the National Cancer Institute.
Author: Adriana M. Chavez – NMSU