CHIP cancer research has historically focused on quality-of-life issues for cancer survivors and on interventions to address survivors’ heightened risk for cancer reoccurrence, second primary cancers, and many other diseases. An example of such work is a nutrition and physical activity intervention currently being developed for breast cancer survivors targeting the “teachable moment” following diagnosis and treatment.
A new line of cancer prevention research involves evaluating the effectiveness of new graphic cigarette warning labels on cigarette packages that are intended to discourage tobacco use.
Additionally, CHIP’s health psychologists Rick Gibbons and Meg Gerrard focus on cancer risk behavior. Much of their work is based on the Prototype/ Willingness (PW) model, a social-reaction model of adolescent health-risk behavior that they developed. The model contends that adolescents’ health decision-making strategies are often reactions to risk-conducive situations rather than planned activities. Dr. Gibbons and his research team study individuals from a variety of demographic backgrounds, including backgrounds that vary in ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status. Current research includes a study that uses both experimental and survey methods to examine the effects of media portrayals of smoking on adolescents’ smoking behavior.
Meg Gerrard’s expertise is studying adolescent and young adult health behavior. For the past 15 years, her primary research area has been health risk and health promoting factors of African American adolescents and emerging adults. Dr. Gerrard has examined cancer susceptibility profiles in young African American adults and, specifically, she has created a theoretical model of the integration of psychological and physiological stress response pathways to markers of cancer vulnerability (i.e., smoking, risky sex, elevated BMI, increased inflammation, and reduced telomere maintenance). Dr. Gerrard’s unique role at CHIP is to increase multidisciplinary cancer research collaborations across UConn campuses. In this capacity, she chairs CHIP’s recently-formed, multidisciplinary Cancer Research Interest Group.
Examples of some of Dr. Gibbons and Dr. Gerrard’s collaborative research in the area of cancer prevention include: predicting and preventing youth alcohol and substance use, assessing smoking risk behavior and the effectiveness of smoking cessation interventions, applying social psychological theory to interventions for UV protection, and determining psychological and behavioral predictors of HPV vaccination in African American women. Dr. Gerrard has a new UConn faculty grant to extend the HPV vaccination work to Native American communities in the southern New England region.