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With funds raised, work begins on new breast cancer fotonovela

by Gabrielle Olya
Mel Baron's new project will be targeted toward Latino communities.
Mel Baron's new project will be targeted toward Latino communities.

Aware that breast cancer is the most common cancer among Latino women, USC School of Pharmacy Associate Professor Mel Baron is determined to inform this community about the importance of screening and early detection.

Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, Baron will now be able to do just that. Through the website Microryza, Baron has raised $6,109, surpassing his goal of $5,000, to help fund the development of a new fotonovela, a story told through photos and text in a soap-opera style, targeted specifically toward Latino communities.

This marks the first time a USC faculty member has achieved his or her crowdfunding objective.

“I want to thank all those who donated for their generosity,” Baron said. “The funds will be used to create a new fotonovela to let women and their families know the importance of early breast cancer detection. Many low-literacy populations don’t understand why they should be screened. We aim to change that and save lives.”

The contributions will specifically be used to help fund the photography and editing for this uniquely targeted educational tool.

“Currently, this kind of communication tool is lacking, and many women don’t understand the importance of screening and prevention,” Baron explained. “The development of culturally and linguistically appropriate material for the Latino community will help reduce stigmas that people associate with health care and educate them about the most prevalent health conditions, in this case dealing with breast cancer.”

Baron has already successfully produced seven fotonovelas which have focused on childhood obesity, dementia, medication compliance, pediatric asthma, diabetes, birth defects and depression.

“We have a formula for success within the Latino community and will use it again to reach women and their families with important messaging on breast cancer,” he said. “As we have done in the past, our USC School of Pharmacy team will work with community clinics, pharmacies and other health leaders to ensure that our message is effective, engaging and reaches the right readers.”

Among the team members working on the project is Reyna Raya, a pharmacy student at USC who is also a breast cancer survivor. Raya will be providing input on the storyline and be involved in production details.

“We hope to increase awareness, knowledge and change attitudes,” Baron said. “Ultimately we want to change behaviors by encouraging preventive health actions and compliance to therapies.”

Since the year 2000, the mission of the School of Pharmacy Health Literacy Program has been to develop, distribute and evaluate health-related media for underserved and low-literacy Latino populations. The program serves communities that lack health insurance and have poor access to regular health care services.

“Associate Professor Baron’s crowdfunding campaign is a great example of how the School of Pharmacy community is dedicated to helping the greater community,” said Dean R. Pete Vanderveen. “I am confident that this will be the first of many such projects to successfully raise money this way for a greater good.”

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