Background and Mission


The Witness Project® of Harlem (WPH) represents a culturally sensitive educational effort that requires collaboration with the church, a powerful and far-reaching institution in the African American community.  This program has been modeled after the Witness Project® developed by Dr. Deborah Erwin and her associates (then) at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The Witness Project® is a culturally competent breast and cervical cancer education program for African American women designed to increase adherence to recommended screening guidelines. Statistics published by the National Cancer Institute show that African American women are more likely than other groups to be diagnosed at later and less curable stages of breast cancer and are more likely to die of the disease.

The Witness Project® of Harlem seeks to address these disparities by having cancer survivors openly share details about their diagnosis and treatment and confront the fear and silence that cancer evokes in many women, particularly in the Black community. At the same time, it also celebrates the rich tradition of faith that is shared by many people of African descent. Additionally, trained lay health advisors teach participants about cervical breast, and colorectal cancer, emphasizing on increasing awareness, screening, and preventative methods among the African-American community. Essentially, the program aims to empower families to take control of their health and lives.

The Witness Project® has been replicated at almost 30 sites across the nation. Evaluation research has shown that women who receive the Project’s message report significant increases in mammography use and breast self-examination.