Exploring barriers to cancer screening for East Africans

African American men and women, including immigrants from East Africa, are more likely to die of cancer than any other racial group in the U.S.

Motohiro NakajimaU family medicine and biobehavioral health faculty members Motohiro Nakajima, Ph.D., and Mustafa al’Absi, Ph.D., want to reverse this trend and are interested in factors that contribute to low rates of participation in cancer screening among East Africans.

With Masonic support, they are working to identify psychosocial and cultural factors that influence the likelihood of Somali and Ethiopian community members to seek cancer screening. Specifically, they plan to examine the roles of trauma exposure, acculturation and related stress, cultural beliefs, and unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco and khat use.

Nakajima and al’Absi’s study will include individuals from both communities and be conducted in close partnership with the Somali Family Life Center and the Oromo Community of Minnesota. They hope to start recruiting participants in spring 2019. Once the study is complete, their findings will help shape the creation of a community-tailored cancer prevention program.

Mustafa“Minnesota is home to one of the largest East African communities in the nation. Unfortunately, racial and ethnic disparities exist in health care. This opportunity, made possible in part by Masonic support, will help us gain a better understanding of why some immigrants don’t seek cancer screening, especially when we know that screening can help save lives.”


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