April 19, 2003 - Harvard Public Health: As a newly assigned Peace Corps volunteer in 1996, Michelle Samplin-Salgado found herself in Ecuador

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As a newly assigned Peace Corps volunteer in 1996, Michelle Samplin-Salgado found herself in Ecuador

As a newly assigned Peace Corps volunteer in 1996, Michelle Samplin-Salgado found herself in Ecuador

Michelle Samplin-Salgado of the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention

As a newly assigned Peace Corps volunteer in 1996, Michelle Samplin-Salgado found herself in Ecuador with a lot of motivation but little command of Spanish. When it came time for her first health lecture, she had to figure out how best to converse with her audience of largely rural, Spanish-speaking women. She carefully collected and distributed images that demonstrated key points of the lecture and, when language failed, used posters and other communication tools that she had developed. The lecture was a lesson for the budding communications specialist, who found that patience, good listening skills, humor, and creativity go a long way towards targeting a public health message.

Now, Samplin-Salgado is the communications manager at the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention (HCCP) at HSPH. Her job is to coordinate the delivery of consistent and accurate cancer prevention messages to the public and to professionals, stressing that half of all cancers can be prevented.

When she came to HSPH almost two years ago, she thought that her work at HCCP would be quite different than her efforts in Ecuador. However, she found that the job philosophies–if not the issues–were similar.

"While some of the differences may seem striking–here, we talk about obesity," she said. "There, we talked about malnutrition. There is a common thread of prevention and of motivating individuals to make positive, healthy behavior change."

Samplin-Salgado received her MPH degree from the University of Hawaii. As an international fellow, Samplin-Salgado spent more than three months in Hanoi, Vietnam, examining the relationship between culture and behavioral risk factors for HIV/AIDS.

"Since I was an undergrad, I have been interested in what motivates people to change," said Samplin-Salgado.

Before joining the Peace Corps, she worked for several years at the American Cancer Society in Honolulu, Hawaii, serving as the Project Director of Childhood Cancer Projects.

She spent four and 1/2 years in Ecuador, where she trained more than 100 community health workers in basic health promotion and disease prevention strategies. She coordinated other projects, including workshops for midwives and local businesswomen. Also in Ecuador, she worked at Catholic Relief Services, where she oversaw several health communications projects.

At HSPH, under the guidance of HCCP Director of Education Graham Colditz, Samplin-Salgado works with a team that meets regularly to implement the HCCP’s communications strategy. The HCCP communications staff includes Catherine Tomeo Ryan, publications coordinator; Jennie Greene, project manager and multimedia producer; Hank Dart and Cynthia Stein, project managers. Greene produced the video "Community Voices: Exploring Cross-Cultural Care Through Cancer" that recently won an award of excellence from the American Medical Writers Association.

Samplin-Salgado coordinates the activities of the center’s communications office. The activities run the gamut from print materials to web work to digital video. She also helps to promote the popular website Your Cancer Risk at www.yourcancerrisk.harvard.edu. Unveiled in 2000, the site is the most frequently viewed website at HSPH and has recorded over 770,000 visitor sessions and 9.9 million page views since its inception. The site asks users to complete anonymous questionnaires to determine their risks of developing breast, prostate, colon, lung, bladder, melanoma, uterine, kidney, pancreatic, ovarian, stomach, and cervical cancer. The site emphasizes prevention methods and offers community action plans to address a variety of cancer-related health issues. Both USA Today and US News & World Report have listed Your Cancer Risk as a featured website. Samplin-Salgado is currently involved in plans to incorporate Your Cancer Risk into a broader website that will include other diseases.

The main website for HCCP, www.hsph.harvard.edu/cancer, was redesigned this year and Samplin-Salgado helped to develop the layout and content and is now the webmaster for the site.

To pool resources with the wider community, Samplin-Salgado is a member of a cancer communicators network at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. She has also developed relationships with organizations such as Black Entertainment Interactive (BETi). Together with BETi, the HCCP has developed a cancer prevention series that includes information germane to African Americans.

"How to communicate health information has always intrigued me," she said. "My position at the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention provides me with an opportunity to translate public health research into messages that promote positive behavior change and aim to reduce the burden of disease."

HCCP Recommendations to Help Reduce Risk of Getting Cancer

1. Maintain a healthy weight.
2. Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
3. Don’t smoke.
4. Eat a healthy diet.
5. Drink less than one alcoholic drink a day.
6. Protect yourself from the sun.
7. Protect yourself and your partner(s) from sexually transmitted diseases.

For more information visit www.hsph.harvard.edu/cancer. To measure your cancer risk, visit www.yourcancerrisk.harvard.edu.

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Story Source: Harvard Public Health

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Ecuador; Public Health; Cancer Prevention



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