Baylor Public Health Researcher Receives NIH Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health Award to Promote Cancer Screening in Ghana

April 10, 2024
Public Health Researcher Matt Asare

Matt Asare, PhD, MPH, MBA, CHES, Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health in Baylor University’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, has received a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dissemination and Implementation Research in Health (R21) award through the Fogarty International Center for his proposal, “Development of Implementation Toolkits to Promote HPV Self-sampling Behavior among Women Living with HIV in Ghana.”

“This award will allow me to contribute to the global efforts in addressing cervical cancer disease—also known as the ‘disease of the poor’—and to give women in low and middle-income countries the chance to be proactive in taking care of themselves before they become victims to this preventable disease,” Asare said. “When I received notice of the award, I was excited and shocked. It felt surreal, but after some time, I remembered the Word of God, which says, ‘…At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen’ (Isaiah 60:22).” 

According to Asare, women living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries are six times more likely to develop cervical cancer compared to their uninfected counterparts. In previous research conducted in the country of Ghana, he has found that self-sampling is an acceptable, easy to use, and effective strategy for detecting pre-cancer lesions among women living with HIV; however, this screening mechanism has not been translated to actual healthcare practice.

With his new NIH funding, Asare is seeking to bridge this gap. He will develop “Home-based, self-collection for the cervical cancer Prevention Education” (HOPE) toolkits that will make self-sampling more widely accepted and accessible. The toolkit will be created in partnership with the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital in Ghana with input provided by focus groups of women living with HIV, healthcare workers, and community leaders. Once the toolkit is developed, it will be evaluated for feasibility, acceptability, appropriateness, and adoptability before being tested among women living with HIV and a control group. 

Asare hopes that the accessibility and contextual development of the HOPE toolkits will increase self-screening behavior for women living with HIV, which will then lead to an evaluation of implementation actions and costs to better understand the influences on widespread toolkit adoption in Ghana.

“Our Department of Public Health is celebrating Dr. Asare’s NIH-funded research project,” said Eva Doyle, PhD, MCHES, Chair of the Department of Public Health. “His focus on cervical cancer prevention education in Ghana, and the community-based partnerships he as built for this project, are directly aligned with our mission of integrating our research with our desire to promote health equity and improve the well-being of vulnerable and underserved populations. We are excited about project HOPE!”

About Matt Asare

Asare joined the Baylor University faculty in 2018 after completing his post-doctoral training (NCI-funded R25T program) as a Research Assistant Professor in the Cancer Control Unit of the Department of Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Ghana, Master of Business Administration and Master of International Affairs from Ohio University, Master of Public Health from the University of Rochester Medical Center, and PhD from the University of Cincinnati. 

Asare’s research focuses on health disparities relating to cancer control and prevention, patient-provider relationships, cultural humility and responsiveness, and sexual education. His scholarship is grounded in theories to facilitate pro-health behavior changes at the individual and community levels, especially among racial and ethnic minorities and underserved populations.

“I am thrilled for Dr. Asare and proud of the hard work and perseverance he has demonstrated throughout the grant-seeking process,” said Jason R. Carter, PhD, Dean of Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences. “His research exemplifies the Baylor mission—marked by quality, focused on impact, and inspired by our Christian commitments.”