Teasa Thompson

Program Manager for Affecting
Cancer Together (ACT)

Helping establish statewide efforts to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases and to promote their early detection is Teasa Thompson's mission.

Teasa Thompson

Thompson established the Affecting Cancer Together (ACT) program through Purdue's Center for Cancer Research two years ago for just that purpose. Thompson, who is ACT program manager and the center's assistant director of outreach, regularly travels around the state to provide awareness, education, and a bridge to health resources and services to community members.

What is the Affecting Cancer Together program?

ACT is a statewide effort focused on reducing the morbidity, mortality, health disparities, and inequities of cancer and other chronic diseases in Indiana. We collaborate with the Indiana Department of Health, county departments of health, several hospital systems and community members to focus on educating folks about preventive measures they can take against chronic diseases.

We aim to improve health outcomes for all Hoosiers, including underserved populations. To do this, we work actively in communities to develop health leaders and to train community members to become lay health educators and health motivators. We also target our efforts based on cancer incidence and mortality rates, so that we work where we're needed most, and we incorporate our participants' feedback into ACT. Our efforts are truly collaborative.

On behalf of ACT, I travel across the state — within central Indiana and to places such as Evansville, Fort Wayne, Gary and South Bend — to engage in community outreach and education. We often use nontraditional health care settings in communities to promote awareness, provide education, and motivate and encourage prevention and early detection of cancer and other chronic diseases.

What is an example of ACT's initiatives?

Right now, we are concentrating on men's health initiatives. For example, we just completed our third annual Indiana Black Barbershop Health Initiative, which takes place every April. It aims to reduce the number of deaths from prostate cancer. This year, more than 50 barbershops in 12 cities across the state were involved, and many sponsors and community partners helped make it happen.

The barbershop initiative offers free blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol screenings along with information about prostate health. ACT sponsored prostate cancer screenings in Indianapolis and South Bend for the 2013 initiative. This is an example of using a nontraditional health care setting to reach community members with information about how to prevent chronic diseases or detect them early.

What led to your receiving a 2013 Cancer Control Champion award from the Indiana Cancer Consortium (ICC)?

Cancer Control Champion awards are given to individuals who are members of the ICC and who work to implement its cancer control plan. This year, there were three award recipients.

ACT often partners with the ICC, and so I serve as co-chair of its prostate cancer committee. I also was co-editor of the Indiana Cancer Facts and Figures 2012 publication, which the ICC produces in conjunction with the American Cancer Society and the Indiana State Department of Health. That publication includes actual state data — instead of projected data — to present information about cancer and its effect in Indiana. The 2012 Indiana facts and figures publication also includes specific cancer prevention information. That document is available on the ICC's website at www.indianacancer.org.

What are some initiatives ACT might tackle in the future?

In the future, we plan to focus on women's health, as well. Specifically, we'll focus on providing community outreach and education for preventable cancers (i.e. breast, colorectal and cervical) and other chronic diseases for women. We plan to launch an initiative similar to our barbershop initiative but with hair and beauty salons, where we'll partner with and teach community members to become health leaders, lay health educators and health motivators. We're also planning to extend those relationships into faith-based entities and social groups that will be similar to our initiatives with men’s health.

What is the most important thing about ACT's work?

Anytime you have a preventable disease such as prostate cancer or heart disease, early detection and living a healthy lifestyle are key. ACT focuses on what people can do to stay healthy, including physical activity, eating more healthfully, engaging in early detection screenings when available and being aware of family history. ACT focuses on educating others and helping individuals be proactive about their health, which are always very important and worthwhile endeavors.