Tess Thompson, research assistant professor in the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, has received a five-year $1.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study unmet social needs of cancer patients and their caregivers, with the ultimate aim of improving outcomes for both members of a pair.
The project is titled Dyadic Analysis of Unmet Social Needs Among Breast and Gynecologic Patients and Their Informal Caregivers.
Thompson and her colleagues will collect data from patient and caregiver pairs four times in the year after patients’ diagnosis with breast or gynecologic cancer to assess their unmet social needs.
“Lately, there has been a lot of interest in screening patients for unmet social needs such as food, housing and transportation,” she said. “We know that unmet needs are linked to a range of negative mental and physical health outcomes, but clinicians need to know more about how unmet needs affect people receiving treatment for cancer.”
Informal caregivers, such as partners, family and friends, provide cancer patients with important unpaid support during treatment, “but we know very little about how caregivers’ unmet social needs might affect caregiving,” Thompson said.
“One of the key questions of this project is whether and how caregivers’ unmet social needs affect the patient,” she said. “We will collect data from patient and caregiver pairs four times in the year after patients’ diagnosis with breast or gynecologic cancer to assess their unmet social needs and see whether unmet needs are correlated within the pair.
“We will also conduct in-depth interviews with patients and caregivers and map the neighborhood resources available to both members of a pair. Findings will help us create a targeted screening and referral system to address the social and mental health needs of patients, and, if warranted, their caregivers. The ultimate goal of this work is to improve outcomes for cancer patients and their loved ones.”
Thompson examines how the social context affects health in cancer prevention and control. Her work includes three main strands: the effects of family on health, the importance of social support and the impact of unmet social needs on health outcomes.
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