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CAI Launches Study Focusing on Impact of Community Engagement on Changing Social Norms Around Smoking

Studying impact of community engagement on changing social norms around smoking

JACKSON, MS (July 13, 2021) – CAI’s Research Department and the NYU Grossman School of Medicine have been awarded a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study CAI’s Project BAT (Black people Against Tobacco).

Project BAT aims to build the capacity of Jackson, Mississippi, residents to fight tobacco use by changing how the community views, accepts, and utilizes tobacco. The initiative mobilizes Black/African American community members to act collectively to reduce the enduring racial disparities in tobacco use in the community, where smoking is a coping mechanism used to deal with systemic racism, poverty, and chronic stress.

Central to Project BAT’s efforts is the work of a Community Advisory Group of residents who develop and implement an intervention that addresses tobacco use and the forces that have made smoking an endemic problem.

This new award—part of the CDC funding stream “Reducing Inequities in Cancer Outcomes through Community-Based Interventions on Social Determinants of Health”–presents a unique opportunity to evaluate the success of Project BAT’s community engagement efforts in shifting the social norms that influence tobacco use, putting racial justice front and center. While there have been decades of research into the influence of social norms on smoking in Black/African American communities, no one has evaluated the power of community engagement to affect these norms in Jackson.
“This funding will allow us to develop intentional, research-based activities that will inform future strategies to galvanize social changes among historically underserved and marginalized populations. It is particularly exciting because we know that changing the social norms of a minority of a group can alter the behavior of the majority,” said Lindsay Senter, the Research Director for CAI, who is the principal project researcher.

Project BAT was initiated in 2020 with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as part of its priority initiative in the Southern United States to “address the stark disparities in tobacco use experienced by communities across Tobacco Nation.”

This new support from the CDC is a five-year cooperative agreement. CAI, with its partner NYU, will have research outcomes to share when the study concludes in 2026.