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Ongoing Study Aims To Improve Quality Of Life For Valley's Spanish Speaking Cancer Patients

Kerry Klein
Valley Public Radio
Anna María Nápoles, Scientific Director of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, presented preliminary results of the Nuevo Amanecer II program in Visalia on August 8, 2019.";

Health disparities research around the U.S. has shown that not only do Spanish speakers tend to receive less information and support related to their health ailments than English speakers, they’re also less likely to speak up about their symptoms. Ongoing research with local ties, however, aims to close some of those gaps.

Called Nuevo Amanecer II, or “new dawn II” in Spanish, the program is part study, part one-on-one support. It involved training California residents to be “compañeras,” or companions, to visit Spanish speaking breast cancer survivors at home to discuss pain management, body image and sexuality, as well as how to talk to their loved ones about cancer and seek support from their communities.

At a meeting in Visalia on Thursday, co-investigator Anna María Nápoles with the National Institutes of Health said preliminary data from the 3-year-program show it successfully reduced anxiety and physical pain among patients while improving their coping capacity.

“They gained much more confidence in managing their stress and the changes in their moods which come with a diagnosis of cancer and all the side effects of treatments,” Napoles said. “That was our goal, to improve their quality of life, and we achieved that.”

About a third of the 153 patients recruited from the study had been treated at Kaweah Delta Healthcare District, including 63-year-old Edelmira Ramos. “When you’re told you have cancer, it’s like your life is ending. You don’t know how to deal with your illness,” she said. “I’m very thankful for this program...It’s helped us to understand there are people who can help us.”

Other Nuevo Amanecer collaborators include the University of California San Francisco, Bay Area non-profit Circulo de Vida Cancer Support and Resource Center, and two cancer centers in El Centro and Watsonville. Researchers hope to publish their final results, including stress data from cortisol levels measured in participants’ hair and saliva samples, within the next few months.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.