Harvest for Health in Older Cancer Survivors

  • End date
    Jul 1, 2022
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    University of Alabama at Birmingham
Updated on 14 April 2021


Gardening interventions yield a multitude of measurable benefits that are evaluable within the context of a clinical trial. Harvest for Health forges new inroads in the delivery of holistic interventions to high risk populations, in this case, older cancer survivors. Since the intervention banks on an existing organization's infrastructure, it can easily be disseminated nationwide. The next step is to prove efficacy - an essential step in contributing to the science in this area, and one which is crucial for future dissemination.


There are roughly 15 million cancer survivors in the US, comprising 4% of the populace. The number of cancer survivors is skyrocketing due to a confluence of the following factors: 1) Americans are aging; 2) cancer is an age-related disease (>60% of cancer survivors are age 65+); and 3) improvements in early detection and treatment have resulted in many common cancers having 5-year cure rates that surpass 90%. Rising numbers of cancer survivors is good news, but over $130 billion annually is needed to address subjects long-term health and psychosocial needs.113 Compared to others, cancer survivors are at higher risk for other cancers, CVD, osteoporosis, and diabetes. Accelerated functional decline also is a major problem for cancer survivors, especially those who are older. Baker et al. found that compared to age-matched controls, cancer cases (n=45,494) had significantly lower physical and social functioning, vitality, mental health, and HRQoL (p<0.001). Results of others are similar and suggest that cancer survivors face functional decline that threatens subject ability to live independently, posing a burden to themselves, subject families and the health care system. Programs exist in land grant universities in all 50 United States. Certified MGs complete > 100 hrs. of training and community service (CS) and 25 hrs./year of CS to maintain active status. In surveying 184 MGs in AL, the investigators found that 71% were "extremely interested" in mentoring a cancer survivor on vegetable gardening for subject CS, and an extra 26% stated that "they were interested and wanted to learn more." Thus, the project is of great interest and builds on an extant infrastructure for sustainability. Ultimately, this intervention could be disseminated to states with 3 growing seasons and adapted to colder weather in those with 2 growing seasons (36 states where 10.8 million older cancer survivors reside). The intervention also could be adapted for persons with other chronic diseases in which physical functioning and lifestyle behaviors are key. Finally, this project is significant because the intervention has great potential for sustainability since gardening: (a) involves many activities which prevent burn-out common with other forms of exercise, and allows participants to pursue PA outdoors which is related to greater enjoyment; (b) provides a sense of achievement and zest for life that come from nurturing and observing new life and growth; and (c) imparts natural prompts since plants require regular care (watering) and attention (harvesting) and serve as continual and dynamic behavioral cues.

Condition Cancer Survivor
Treatment Immediate Gardening Intervention, Delayed Gardening Intervention
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT02985411
SponsorUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham
Last Modified on14 April 2021

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