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UAMS grant aims to help rural and minority communities

The state's largest hospital is continuing efforts to improve healthcare in the smallest parts of the state.

WRIGHTSVILLE, Ark. — UAMS received $18.9 million from the National Institutes of Health to support new research that will focus on reducing cancer and cardiovascular disease among people who live in rural areas and minority communities. 

Doing research in rural areas of Arkansas is both costly and challenging.

"From a community perspective, we are trying to reach people where they are in the community setting," Pebbles Fagan, Director of Center for Tobacco at UAMS said. 

For years, Pebbles Fagas has tried to find ways to address health issues in rural and minority communities.

After not having much success, she said it is time for a more personal approach.

"If you do something over and over again, and you get the same results, then you have to shift your focus," Fagan said.

She and team of researchers are now focusing on what resources they can provide to prevent diseases that primarily affect the people that live in these under resourced communities. 

"The two number one killers in our state, both cancer and cardiovascular disease, we hope to see that more people are trained to do this kind of research in our communities," Fagan said.

The team will begin to tackle three different projects.

Their first is helping black Americans put down the cigarettes.

"We do that through what we call evidence based practice, which is using motivational counseling that encourages them to quit smoking," Fagain said.

Additionally, Fagan said the researchers will be going out into rural towns to visit barbershops and schools.

It's an approach that doesn't happen often, but she believes research that is done out of the office and in the community, this will allow for better and more accurate results.

"We have another program that's focused on reducing alcohol use, which is, which is another major risk factor for cancer and cardiovascular disease. And working in the barber shop setting where we know we can reach African American men and referring them to counseling," Fagan said.

She adds that many people in rural towns don't have access to good healthcare.

With this community based research project, she is hopeful that will change.

"What we hope to see at the end of the five years that we have made some difference, and preventing cancers, seeing cancer rates come down, seeing cardiovascular disease come down," Fagan said. 

Once the five-year grant is complete, the hospital will apply for addition funding.

UAMS is hoping to expand telemedicine programs in rural communities as well.