Vision: In support of the University Cancer Research Fund's vision of improving cancer outcomes in North Carolina, Health-e-NC is an innovative initiative at UNC-Chapel Hill that aims to build a state-of-the-art system to deliver and test interventions that will reduce the cancer burden and optimize outcomes. We want to close the gap between what we know works and what we actually do.

Goal: Health-e-NC provides pilot funding for research on various intervention delivery methods, as well as a web-based platform for testing and sharing evidence-based approaches. Supported research focuses on the entire cancer control continuum, from preventing cancer to treatment of patients and support of cancer survivors. Health-e-NC focuses on the cancers that present the greatest burden in North Carolina, including breast, lung, and colorectal cancers. Health-e-NC pilot projects bring together experts from many different fields to work together, often in collaboration with community partners. Health-e-NC is particularly interested in the role interactive technology can play in reducing cancer outcomes in North Carolina.

University Cancer Research Fund

The University Cancer Research Fund (UCRF) was created in 2007 by the NC General Assembly with the mission to ensure that future generations of North Carolinians will develop cancer less often and live longer and better when they do. Research creates new knowledge, turns that knowledge into innovative treatment, screening, and prevention, and then assures delivery of effective programs across the state. That research is the key unlocking the doors to a new, better and healthier future. The UCRF is helping to make that research possible and bring that reality to life!

The UCRF has three research priorities:

  • Understanding Genetics and its Role in Cancer Causation and Treatment
  • Developing New Cancer Treatments, and
  • Optimizing NC Cancer Outcomes.

The UCRF's Optimizing NC Cancer Outcomes initiative seeks to optimize cancer outcomes in North Carolina by conducting innovative prevention, early detection, quality of care, dissemination and survivorship research in North Carolina populations to facilitate effective dissemination and implementation of best practices across the state.

How Health-e-NC supports the UCRF goals

Health-e-NC is one of two projects under the UCRF's Optimizing NC Cancer Outcomes Initiative. Since over half of cancer risk could be prevented due to modifiable health behaviors (e.g., tobacco use, overweight, screening) (Colditz, et al, 2012), Health-e-NC was envisioned as a platform to enhance both research and practice by facilitating health behavior change. Given the complexity of changing ingrained health behaviors, Health-e-NC programs have employed multiple delivery channels such as in-person group meetings, provider interventions, and interactive computer programs. This approach provides fertile ground for research on various intervention delivery methods as well as testing dissemination approaches to accelerate the uptake of evidence-based methods among individuals and health care systems and practitioners. 

Health-e-NC and the other Optimizing NC Cancer Outcomes initiative's project, a cancer data system called ICISS (the Integrated Cancer Information & Surveillance System), are perfect complements as they pair intervention delivery and dissemination research with a deeper understanding of cancer risks for individuals and affected populations, including those in specific geographic locations. Identifying, for example, counties where cancer risk and burden are disproportionately high and our interventions most needed could lead to more rapid improvement in North Carolina's overall cancer outcomes.

Thus through the UCRF, North Carolina is serving as a 'laboratory' in the best sense of the word -- enabling researchers to discover, develop, and disseminate effective population-based strategies to turn the tide on cancer in communities and health care settings across the state. Health-e-NC provides a direct link between the University Cancer Research Fund and the North Carolina citizens it is intended to serve.

Focus of Health-e-NC

Health-e-NC supports research on interventions that address:

  • Cancer risk factors (tobacco use, dietary behavior, physical activity, obesity)
  • Organizational systems/settings (e.g., communities, worksites, healthcare systems, schools, churches, libraries, etc.)
  • Health care providers and practices
  • Support and health promotion for survivors

A primary focus of Health-e-NC is to harness the power of health information and other communication technologies to reduce the burden of cancer in North Carolina. Whether the intent is to reduce risk of cancer; increase access to cancer screening, prevention and treatment services; and/or to improve quality of life for those living with cancer, an array of proven intervention delivery approaches can tap into technology. For example, how can we:

  • Use mobile phone applications to provide tailored health messages to increase healthy eating
  • Use GIS spatial analysis to map community access to places to get physically active
  • Use personal digital assistants to promote cancer screening
  • Conduct online surveys of college administrators to assess the interest, resources and organizational supports that are available to deliver cancer prevention services
  • Tap online and in-person social networks, telemedicine, and innovative approaches to provide peer support to cancer survivors throughout our state

Community-academic partnerships are also key to our mission of designing solutions that optimize cancer outcomes and increase opportunities for program sustainability. Research funded by Health-e-NC supports work in settings such as rural communities, physician office practices, local governments, homes, workplaces, and other settings. Community-academic partnerships include community organizations (e.g., non-profit, health advocacy, or faith-based organizations, local and state health departments, practice-based research networks, health care organizations), clinicians, and investigators as equal partners in the research endeavor.

Health-e-NC Partners

Health-e-NC and its grantees are working with many partners at UNC and beyond to carry out its mission and research projects. Here at UNC, they include:

Health-e-NC Leadership Team

Health-e-NC was initially conceived in 2009 under the leadership of Dr. Marci Campbell, then-program leader for the Cancer Prevention and Control (CPC) Program, in collaboration with Drs. Laura Linnan, Cathy Melvin, Kurt Ribisl, and Deborah Tate. By offering both a framework and funding for cancer intervention research, Health-e-NC was launched to provide a much-needed opportunity to foster collaboration and engagement across disciplines among CPC researchers.

This 5-member founding group of faculty researchers served as the Health-e-NC Leadership Team until 2011, when the group was condensed to Drs. Ribisl, Linnan (both in health behavior), and Tate (in nutrition and health behavior). The 3-member team meets monthly and is actively engaged in both the 'big picture' vision and the implementation of Health-e-NC initiatives.  In addition to serving as the faculty director for Health-e-NC, Dr. Ribisl has led the CPC since 2012.  Our Health-e-NC leadership team has strategically used the Health-e-NC initiative to re-invigorate the CPC program - one of Lineberger's largest - and foster a renewed sense of collaboration among CPC members that extends across population sciences to clinical research. 

Health-e-NC is managed by Barbara Alvarez Martin, project director and Anne Glauber Cabell, project manager.