Complex and interrelated factors contribute to the disparities in cancer incidence and death among people of color. There are many factors, but these most obvious is a lack of health care coverage and low socioeconomic status. A new research project at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is seeking to determine if a program aimed at increasing exercise among women who have had breast cancer can contribute to a reduction in the racial disparity in breast cancer survival rates.

UW-Milwaukee School of Public Health associate professor Alice Yan recently completed a four-week exercise program with a group of African-American women who had breast cancer as part of a two-year research project funded by the American Cancer Society.

“African-American women have a 23 percent lower five-year relative survival rate than their white counterparts,” Yan told the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee News. “Research has shown that exercise plays a vital role in improving the lives of breast cancer survivors. Even brisk walking can be beneficial.”

Getting women living busy lives to exercise can be difficult sometimes, so Yan partnered with the Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin to develop an exercise program that was conducted at the Martin Luther King Community Center on North 16th and West Vliet streets in Milwaukee.

Yan’s study involved focus groups in which the women identified culturally relevant and contextual factors that created barriers to exercise, as well as those that would enhance the likelihood that they would participate in exercise on a regular basis.

“One thing we saw was that it was important that the programs be offered where the women live, work and socialize,” Yan said.