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Project FAROS to Help Houston-area Hispanics Access Health Care Services


The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center soon will provide up to 4,000 Houston-area Hispanics with information and guidance on health care resources with the intent of identifying barriers and improving the use of cancer prevention, early detection and treatment services.

With the assistance of a grant from the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, researchers in the Center for Research on Minority Health (CRMH) in the Department of Health Disparities Research at M. D. Anderson initiated the Facilitated Assistance, Research and Outreach Services demonstration project, Project FAROS (FAROS means “beacon of light” in Spanish). Project FAROS is part of the first nation-wide study developed to explore health care access issues faced by minorities.

“Hispanics are the fastest growing minority population in the U.S. and Texas,” says Lovell A. Jones, Ph.D., director of M. D. Anderson’s Center for Research and Minority Health and lead investigator for FAROS. “Because Hispanics face financial and accessibility obstacles in gaining crucial screening and treatment services, we are delighted to provide much needed assistance in the hopes of eventually reducing health disparities in this population.”

FAROS community workers plan to recruit participants from local community centers and M. D. Anderson outpatient clinics. Participants will be asked to complete a questionnaire on cancer screening habits, general demographic information and cancer history. After completion, Medicare will randomize participants into one of two groups.

One group will receive print information on health care resources and be assigned a “navigator,” or guide, who will contact them to assess their individual health care needs. These bilingual “navigators” are specially-trained to simplify the health care process by translating complex medical information into understandable language and providing step-by-step instruction on accessing health care services, including financial assistance and care coordination. Navigators can assist with scheduling appointments for cancer screening and, if needed, follow-up diagnostic testing. They also can provide support to cancer patients who need assistance acquiring treatment medication or services. Participants can request that their assigned navigator accompany them during appointments to assist with language barriers and to provide emotional support.

The second group will be given personalized print information as described above, but not be assigned a “navigator.”

“This study will allow us to determine the effectiveness of using a ’navigator’ for people who are unfamiliar with health care services and processes,” says Jones. “Previous studies have indicated that providing guided assistance can diminish fears and facilitate a smoother experience.”

To be eligible for the study, participants must be Hispanic, at least 40 years of age, residents of Harris County and enrolled in both Medicare A and B. Those with managed Medicare health plans, such as Humana Gold or Aetna Medicare PPO, are not eligible.

In addition, participants must be cancer free or previously treated cancer patients must be at least five years into remission to be eligible. Patients who have been diagnosed with breast, cervical, colorectal, lung or prostate cancer within the past two months and have not begun treatment also may be eligible for the study.

M. D. Anderson is one of six hospitals across the country participating in this four-year study that proposes to guide more than 13,000 minority Medicare beneficiaries through the health care system. Of this number, M. D. Anderson has been assigned to recruit the largest number of participants - about 4,000 Hispanic men and women.

Other participating institutions in Michigan, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maryland and Utah have been assigned to recruit from one of the following populations: Asian American and Pacific Islander; American Indian; African American; and Hispanic American.

Hispanics who would like to learn more about Project FAROS can call (713) 563-6288 or send an e-mail to

M. D. Anderson’s Center for Research on Minority Health is one of only a few centers in the nation to take a holistic approach toward understanding cancer and other health-related issues facing minorities and the medically underserved. CRMH staff members recognize that the cancer problem among individuals with different ethnic, social and economic backgrounds cannot be dealt with as a single issue - and that research addressing minority health must be broad, inclusive and culturally sensitive.


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