When it comes to cancer detection, Somali men and women are less likely than other groups to participate in cancer screening. In Minneapolis, for example, screening rates in some Somali communities were around 30 percent for breast and cervical cancer, and only 8 percent for colorectal cancer.
Rebekah Pratt, Ph.D., part of the U’s Program in Health Disparities Research, is committed to reversing this trend and developing interventions that encourage more Somalis to get screened for cancer.
Already, Pratt and Sharif Mohamed, imam at the Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque in Minneapolis, have broken new ground by developing and testing faith-based messages that promote cancer screening among Somalis. Today, with continued Masonic support, they are complementing this study by creating a health literacy program, called Reading for Health, to promote screening.
Reading for Health will be modeled after a health literacy program for immigrants in the U.K., but tailored to Somali immigrants living in Minnesota. Its goal is to teach immigrants to read, but with health-oriented materials, allowing students to simultaneously gain reading and health literacy skills.
Pratt and Mohamed are currently recruiting community leaders and medical professionals to adapt the U.K. version of Reading for Health to the local Somali community. After this, their next big step is to test the program with 40 Somali men and women.
“Support from Minnesota Masonic Charities continues to be hugely helpful. It can be hard to find funds to test something so new. This support is allowing us to explore how health literacy also plays a role in cancer prevention. And while there is information to be learned, there are also reading skills to be gained.”