2021, Innovations in Research


A risk communication strategy for the prevention and early detection of respiratory illness

The AIRWISE study will convene an advisory group of community stakeholders, researchers and clinicians who have tobacco smoke experience. With the help of the BC SUPPORT Unit and knowledge translation specialists, the study team will meet monthly for a year to co-develop a website for communicating lung health information. We will use the established PLCOm2012 lung cancer risk model, the ACCEPT COPD model and radon level maps to share information about lung health risks. The website will be designed so that people can calculate their lung cancer or COPD risk scores and find out where and how to access lung cancer screening, smoking cessation, and pulmonary rehab health services and radon test kits for their home. The AIRWISE website will then be used as an implementation intervention to help improve the reach of lung cancer screening and smoking cessation services.

This is a recently funded study aimed at the co-development of a risk communication strategy that improves information sharing between community members and clinicians who work in various areas of lung health. The risk communication platform developed in this study will be tested in future studies aimed at assessing its ability to improve the reach of lung health services.

There is disparity in access to lung health services in the clinical trials literature. Evidence from lung cancer screening studies, for example, disproportionately represent socially advantaged populations on the basis of gender, race and/or socioeconomic status. The data collection methods used in these studies further pose additional threats to equity through the generation of under-representative training datasets for predictive analytics.

If new predictive models to detect and treat airway diseases are trained with data from “idealized” populations, they may not account for health of those who were excluded. Deliberate inclusion mechanisms are needed now to identify these and other potentially critical variables, such as immigration, geographic and occupational risk data. Together, our experienced team of community, clinical and scientific advisors will work together to co-design a risk communication platform that can improve the reach of lung health services.

Sonya Cressman

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences

Lung health, air pollution, tobacco, cancer prevention, early detection


Sonya Cressman

Dr. Sonya Cressman (she/her/hers) has studied the economics of lung cancer screening for nearly a decade. Her findings show that in contrast to common views that the main outcome from screening is a reduction in deaths from lung cancer, other causes of morbidity and mortality drive the overall cost-effectiveness of screening programs. Knowing that there are evidence-based health services available to improve the efficiency of lung cancer screening has motivated her to assemble this team and undertake research that will extend the reach of prevention and early detection services for lung health.

As a member of national and international committees on the prioritization of research in lung cancer screening programs, Dr. Cressman leads discussions on disparity in access to health services and perpetual inequities from the legacy of data that are generated. She works with teams of patient researchers to collaborate in open learning environments and share knowledge across disciplines, settings and sectors. Her work with the AIRWISE risk communication platform aims to establish the community coalitions that are needed to improve the reach of lung health services.

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