Cancer beliefs and patient activation in a diverse, multilingual primary care sample

Jennifer L. Hay, Emily C. Zabor, Julie Kumar, Debra Brennessel, Margaret M. Kemeny, Erica I. Lubetkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: Greater patient activation, defined as having the knowledge, skills, and confidence to manage one's health, is associated with cancer control behaviors. Cancer risk beliefs may be associated with patient activation, and delineating this relationship could inform cancer control interventions across diverse patient subgroups. This study examines associations between cancer risk beliefs, language preference, and patient activation within a multilingual urban primary care setting. Design: Patients 18 years and older within a New York City public hospital serving a large proportion of non–native-born Americans were surveyed regarding their cancer risk beliefs and patient activation in Haitian Creole, Spanish, or English based on language preference during a health care visit. Results: The sample (N = 460) included 150 Haitian Creole speakers, 159 Spanish speakers, and 151 English speakers and was primarily non-White (92%). Most participants (84%) had not been born in the United States. Cancer risk beliefs differed across language preference. Beliefs that cancer could be avoided by minimizing thoughts about cancer risk were significantly higher in Haitian Creole speakers than in others; reported negative emotion when thinking about cancer risk was higher in Spanish and English than in Haitian Creole speakers. These cancer risk beliefs were positively related to patient activation, even when controlling for language preference. Conclusion: Cancer risk beliefs differ across language preference and are related to patient activation, making them potentially important in cancer control. Consideration of language represents important demographic stratification for understanding the frequency and relevance of different beliefs about cancer and patient activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1078
Number of pages8
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • cancer
  • cancer risk beliefs
  • oncology
  • patient activation


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