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Community-Based Participatory Approach to Improving Breast Cancer Services for Women Living in St. Louis

2011– Present


The ultimate goal of this community-based participatory research project is to decrease the disparity in breast cancer mortality that exists in St. Louis. Identifying shortfalls in the breast cancer treatment of African-American women living in north St. Louis will help to explain their disproportionate rates of mortality compared to white women. Armed with this knowledge, we will work toward the ultimate goal of remedying this disparity. This objective can only be achieved if we are able to foster the infrastructure for a strong, balanced and effective collaboration between two worlds, namely community stakeholders and academic researchers. Four local organizations are co-leading in this project as community partners: Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Centers (PHC); Committed Caring Faith CommunitiesChristian Hospital; and Women’s Wellness Program of the Saint Louis Effort for AIDS.


This project incorporates both a research aim and a community outreach aim.

  • Research Aim: Use a variety of information to understand disruptions in the course of breast cancer treatment as a possible explanation of excessive breast cancer mortality in north St. Louis. Sources of information include the Missouri Cancer Registry, in-depth interviews with women diagnosed with breast cancer while living in sections of north St. Louis and focus groups with breast cancer providers.
  • Community Outreach Aim: Enhance community trust by listening to community voices, having an established presence in the community and offering resources to community members and organizations. This includes town hall meetings and community presentations at schools, churches and organizations where we will share research findings on breast cancer and listen to community feedback and discussion.


The project team has completed focus groups with community members from eight ZIP codes in north St. Louis. Transcripts have been analyzed to inform the scientific approach. Soon, the team will conduct a series of focus groups with nonphysician health care providers who provide services in and for the eight ZIP codes.

To establish a presence in the community, the project team opened the Community Partnership Center, a drop-in center and office that will serve as home base for primary project staff. Community members are encouraged to visit the office for connection to health and cancer prevention information. The center is located in north St. Louis at 3335 Union Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63115.

The first town hall meeting is scheduled for summer 2012 at Centennial Christian Church. These gatherings provide a platform for the project team to hear from and engage with community members about health care in St. Louis.


Susan G. Komen For The Cure: Vulnerable Community Grant

Project Team
  • Sarah Gehlert, PhD (Principal Investigator, George Warren Brown School of Social Work)
  • Dwayne Butler (Principal Investigator, CEO of Betty Jean Kerr People's Health Clinic)
  • Ron McMullen (Principal Investigator, President of Christian Hospital)
  • Cheryl Oliver (Principal Investigator, CEO of Saint Louis Effort for AIDS)
  • Rev. Isaac McCullough (Principal Investigator, President of Committed Caring Faith Communities)
  • Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH (Principal Investigator, Washington University)
  • Melody Goodman, PhD (Project Statistician, Washington University)
  • Bettina Drake, PhD (Co-Investigator, Washington University)
  • Victoria Anwuri, MPH (Co-Investigator, Washington University)
  • Sierra Johnson, MSW (Project Coordinator, George Warren Brown School of Social Work)

Contact Information

Sarah Gehlert, PhD
Phone: 314-935-3434