Prevention and Control

Ana-Paula Cupertino, PhD

Ana-Paula Cupertino, PhD, is Associate Director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program and Director of the Center for Cancer Disparities at John Theurer Cancer Center, part of Hackensack University Medical Center.

Dr. Cupertino is a social and behavioral scientist whose research has included studies related to cancer prevention; smoking cessation and access to cessation treatments among underserved and understudied populations, with a primary focus on Latinos; the reduction of health disparities among Latinos; immigrant health; and e-health initiatives that employ mobile health tools and telemedicine. She has experience in the development and implementation of research projects that incorporate cultural factors and principles of community-based participatory research. Originally from Brazil, Dr. Cupertino’s cancer prevention research has expanded to Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United States.

In a different line of research, she has developed an educational research program designed to increase the representation of under-represented racial and ethnic minority groups in health careers. Her research is aligned with organizational diversity and inclusion activities; she has developed and implemented a Summer Internship in Health Disparities Research that has engaged over 100 high school and college-aged youth from under-represented communities.


Use of mobile health technology to address health disparities among Latinos
The increased affordability and widespread use of mobile devices and internet access across all socioeconomic levels have created new avenues for providing access to health behavior interventions. The potential for mobile devices to deliver treatment messages may be even greater among hard-to-reach, low-income, and underinsured populations. We have shown that with use of the Decidete tablet-based software:

  • There was high utilization of smoking cessation pharmacotherapy and the state-sponsored quit-line
  • Latino families prefer text message reminders to improve immunization adherence.
  • Latinos with diabetes and their family members respond well to online educational programs.

Tobacco control in Latin America
Working in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Brazil, we have identified common themes related to tobacco control and smoking cessation. We found similar patterns of light smoking in Mexico, Brazil, and United States. We also reported common barriers to smoking cessation treatment throughout Latin America and identified opportunities to apply lessons learned from the chronic care model.

Latino community engagement in cancer educational programs
Our studies have shown that culturally and linguistically appropriate educational programs for Promotores de Salud (community health workers) helps these workers encourage community participation in cancer-related clinical trials. We have demonstrated that a community-based approach based on a social network of trained Promotores de Salud increases overall knowledge and participation of Latinos in clinical trials.

Summer Health Disparities internship for high school students
The goal of this internship is to ensure continuity between our K-12 pipeline and University of Kansas School of Medicine (KUSoM) to achieve a significant Latino applicant pool and workforce prepared to reduce health disparities in Kansas. We have shown that a Summer Enrichment Program enhances the probability of Latino high school and college students applying to, being accepted to, and graduating from KUSoM. We have shown the importance of using Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed as a framework to engage Latino students as “co-creators of knowledge” via a community-engaged approach to research that empowers students to think critically about problems in their own communities and to generate solutions for mitigating existing health disparities.