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Sarah Huf

2017-18 Harkness Fellow Clinical Research Fellow Imperial College London


Placement: University of Pennsylvania - Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation

Mentors: Kevin Volpp, M.D., Ph.D. (Director, Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

               David Asch, M.D., M.B.A. (Executive Director, Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, University of Pennsylvania)

ProjectDoes the Message Content of SMS Reminders Affect Participation Rates of Bowel Cancer Screening in the Community Setting: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Sarah Huf, M.B.B.S., M.R.C.S., is a 2017-18 U.K. Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice. She is currently a clinical research fellow in the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, where she is completing a Ph.D. under the supervision of Professor Lord Ara Darzi.  Her doctoral research involves applying behavioral economic theory to the field of breast and cervical cancer screening to improve public participation rates. Huf has collaborated with the Department of Health and Public Health England to evaluate the effect of health message content on screening rates and her work has informed regional screening policy. Huf also serves as a clinical advisor to the HELIX Centre for Health Design based at St. Mary’s Hospital London. Here she partners with designers and clinicians to trial and implement innovative healthcare designs within the system. She has trained clinically in the NHS for six years and is a registrar in general surgery with a specialist interest in breast cancer surgery. Huf completed her medical degree at Imperial College London and is a member of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Project Abstract: Bowel cancer screening is estimated to reduce the risk of dying from cancer by 15 percent. Evidence suggests that the vast majority of the public (>90 percent) think that participating in cancer screening is important. Despite this, screening participation rates in the U.S. and the U.K continue to fall well below national targets. Particular subgroups, such as ethnic minorities and those with low socioeconomic status, continue to have lower participation rates in both countries, contributing to poor cancer outcomes. 

This project aims to test how the use of behavioral economic theory in health communications, such as the invitation and reminders to screening, might improve participation rates in colorectal cancer screening in a low income, ethnically diverse population. A randomized controlled trial in a Federally Qualified Health Centre (FQHC) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will test the effect of behavioral economic theory informed multi-modal approach using text message reminders and mailed home test kits against the current outreach practice. This work is particularly relevant to both the U.S. and the U.K. where optimizing the content of existing health communications could improve screening participation rates, thereby potentially improving cancer outcomes at little extra cost.