National Cancer Institute's new study will pay smokers to learn about them

NCI has a new study that will pay smokers $50 to learn about their smoking habits and where they obtain their health information. Photo: HINTS program sheet (NIH)

WASHINGTON, November 25, 2013 — Bethesda’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) is paying up to $50 to smokers to learn about their smoking habits and where they get their health information. The payments are linked to a study conducted under a program called “Health Information National Trends Survey” (HINTS), which is designed to “collect nationally representative data routinely about the American public’s use of cancer-related information.”

The purpose of HINTS is to monitor changes in health information communications and to understand how adults obtain information. Specifically the study is looking at avenues of communication, such as the Internet, to see how individuals research health risks for themselves and close family members or other loved ones. In doing so, HINTS hopes to optimize how information reaches the general public by using the data to improve health communication channels.

Showing its dedication to using new venues of communication, the study itself is being advertised on Reddit, one of the world’s most popular web forums.  The post from user ‘polezo’ says:

“I’m working on a on a study with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to investigate how people find, use, and understand health information. We’re based out of Rockville, MD and are looking for smokers, former smokers, cancer patients, and cancer survivors in the DMV. If you or anyone you know fits into one of these categories and would like to help us out (we’ll pay you for your time if you qualify), here’s the link to sign-up.

“To be a bit more specific about or study, we’re conducting the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) to learn about how former smokers, smokers, cancer patients and cancer survivors get their health information. And to this end we are conducting paid focus groups in Rockville for the audiences mentioned above.

“For full transparency, I’m a contractor for NCI out of Westat Health Communications. We do lots of government funded research, but personally I just work in spreading public health messages and helping advance evidence based research in the digital space.”

According to HINTS, the effort “was developed by the Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch (HCIRB) of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) as an outcome of the National Cancer Institute’s Extraordinary Opportunity in Cancer Communications.”

That the National Cancer Institute is involved implies that the study is attempting to research why individuals continue to smoke despite the extraordinary health risks that are generally known. The federal organization decribes its mission and origins: “The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is one of 11 agencies that compose the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“The NCI, established under the National Cancer Institute Act of 1937, is the Federal Government’s principal agency for cancer research and training. The National Cancer Act of 1971 broadened the scope and responsibilities of the NCI and created the National Cancer Program.

“Over the years, legislative amendments have maintained the NCI authorities and responsibilities and added new information dissemination mandates as well as a requirement to assess the incorporation of state-of-the-art cancer treatments into clinical practice.”

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Rahat Husain

Rahat Husain has been working as a columnist since 2013 when he joined the Communities. With an interest in America and Islam, Rahat is a prolific writer on contemporary and international issues.


In addition to writing for the Communities, Rahat Husain is an Attorney based in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. He is the Director of Legal and Policy Affairs at UMAA Advocacy. For the past six years, Mr. Husain has worked with Congressmen, Senators, federal agencies, think tanks, NGOs, policy institutes, and academic experts to advocate on behalf of Shia Muslim issues, both political and humanitarian. UMAA hosts one of the largest gatherings of Shia Ithna Asheri Muslims in North America at its annual convention.


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