Fighting Breast Cancer in the Crescent City

Just like Open Door Medical Family Medical Centers, which we featured in a recent blog post, EXCELth Primary Care Network, in New Orleans, is working to increase the city’s breast cancer screening rates and address the unequal burden of breast cancer within the community thanks to a $50,000 grant from the National Football League (NFL) and the American Cancer Society (ACS).

“These crucial grants help provide additional health resources to increase access to care for women in need,” said Sheila Webb, Ph.D., APRN, CNS, EXCELth’s associate clinical director. “Our hope is that by raising breast cancer awareness it will result in women taking action in positive health behaviors with annual exams and screenings and adopting lifestyle behaviors overall.”

EXCELth was one of 32 grant recipients to receive funds to implement strategies to address the unequal burden of breast cancer in communities across the country through the NFL’s A Crucial Catch initiative and the American Cancer Society’s Community Health Advocates implementing National Grants for Empowerment (CHANGE) grant program.

The primary care network’s efforts kicked off with “A Crucial Catch Day – Your Day to Fight Breast Cancer” on Oct. 13. The free event featured free breast health education, clinical breast exams, and referrals for mammograms, and also family-friendly activities for participants of all ages.

Visit EXCELth’s website for more information on upcoming breast cancer events.

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month winds down, we know health centers are fighting breast cancer year-round. Continue to share your initiatives with us and we could write about them on the blog.

Colorado Program Provides Mammograms for Uninsured and Underinsured Women

cIMG_9961_web-350x233Throughout the month of October we’re featuring Community Health Centers and the work they are doing to fight breast cancer, a disease that affects 1 in 8 women. In Colorado, an innovative program from the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) is giving women access to mammograms and more via their health centers in Routt and Moffat counties. The VNA is part of the Women’s Wellness Connection program–an initiative by the Colorado Department of Public Health–that encourages women 40+ to receive regular breast cancer screenings to catch signs of the disease early, when survival rates are highest.

But the VNA also goes a step further. “The Women’s Wellness Connection can help pay for diagnostic screenings for women whose mammograms detect breast abnormalities and possible cancer. If cancer is found, the program will connect her with the help she needs to receive treatment,” writes VNA’s Tamera Manzanares.

Read more about this great program at VNA’s blog. Is your health center working to reduce breast cancer in the community? Tell us about it and we will feature it on this blog.

Free Screenings to Fight Breast Cancer in New York

Jim McGovern, senior vice president of operations for the American Cancer Society's Eastern Division, plans to present a $50,000 check to Lindsay Farrell, Open Door president & chief executive officer.

Jim McGovern, senior vice president of operations for the American Cancer Society’s Eastern Division, presents a $50,000 check to Lindsay Farrell, Open Door president & chief executive officer.

Throughout the month of October we’re featuring Community Health Centers and the work they are doing to fight breast cancer, a disease that will claim over 40,000 lives this year.  In Port Chester, NY, however Open Door Family Medical Centers  is doing its part to save lives.  This week the health center, which has been providing care for more than 40 years to low-income people in Westchester and Putnam counties, hosted A Crucial Catch Day – Your Day to Fight Breast Cancer.  The event provided women over the age of 40 in Westchester County with free breast cancer education and screenings, thanks to a  $50,000 grant from the American Cancer Society and the National Football League. The NFL’s A Crucial Catch initiative [see news article] provides funding to support increased access to breast cancer education and screening resources in underserved communities through the American Cancer Society’s Community Health Advocates implementing National Grants for Empowerment (CHANGE) program.  Open Door’s goal was to see 110 women in a single day.

Is your health center working to reduce breast cancer in the community? Tell us about it and we will feature it on this blog.






Michigan Project Strikes a Blow Against Breast Cancer

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When it comes to fighting disease, Community Health Centers often employ strategies from the bottom up, at the grassroots level.  That’s what happened last March when the Michigan Primary Care Association (MPCA) collaborated with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to boost screening rates for breast and cervical cancer through providing additional support to Community Health Workers (CHW) at Federally Qualified Health Centers in Michigan. The seed money for the project, totaling $250,000, was distributed to eight health center sites with the goal to increase awareness and screening for breast and cervical cancer among disparate populations.

Community Health Workers at participating sites took an individual approach to get the word out to their patient population. “Many of the approaches the health centers took were very creative,” said Sara Koziel, Clinical Program Specialist at MPCA.  “For instance, one health center hosted an informational booth at a Women’s Health Fair.  Another created brochures and pamphlets about the screening program, or offered incentives such as gift cards after screenings were completed.”

There were a variety of challenges to confront that ranged from electronic health records (tracking and implementation), quality improvement, patient flow and outreach.  Yet, each health center developed an appropriate plan of action to succeed. Koziel added “There was a focus on community outreach, but CHWs  also worked within their own health centers to track patient referrals for breast and cervical screening, looking for ways to improve patient satisfaction, increase referral numbers, and ensure adequate and appropriate follow up with the patient.”

Follow up with patients revealed  common barriers to getting a screening — lack of transportation and financial resources. In some cases patients did not return follow up phone calls from the center because there were limited minutes on their phones. Fear was another factor. “Many uninsured women choose not to have preventative services because they don’t have room in their budget for any follow up appointments, so it is better not to know,” reported one Community Health Worker at Baldwin Family Health Care. “By allowing us to offer limited follow up services and the security of knowing there are more supportive programs if needed, these women will sometimes face their fear and complete their screenings. We have been able to quickly connect women with abnormalities to the appropriate program(s) for follow up and this peace of mind is reassuring and valuable.”

The efforts are paying off. A midpoint review of the project data revealed breast cancer screenings within the target populations were up by 36 percent. And while the complete year end numbers are still being collected, the positive midpoint results were encouraging enough that the project has been extended another year with an increase in funding and an expansion of service sites.

Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re writing about innovative ways health centers are fighting breast cancer with early screenings, education, and outreach.  If your health center is doing something to help fight this disease, let us now and we’ll write about it on this blog.


Serving Hispanic Health Needs is Something We Celebrate

Hispanic Heritage monthThere are 54 million Hispanics living in the United States, according to the U.S. Census.  They represent 17 percent of the population as the largest ethnic minority and yet navigating the U.S. healthcare system can pose an enormous challenge to this growing population.  The maze of barriers they can confront on a daily basis can include language and cultural barriers, as well lack of access to preventative healthcare and lack of health insurance.  The estimated 3 million plus migrant season farmworkers that support the 28 billion dollar agriculture food industry, the vast majority of whom are Spanish-speaking, are especially hard hit by lack of access to care because of poverty and frequent mobility, according to the National Center for Farmworker Health.

Some of the leading causes of illness and death among the Hispanic community are illnesses that can be prevented or managed, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and stroke. Hispanics are less likely to get cancer compared to other populations, but they often wait until it’s too late to get early screenings and treatment.

However, open to all regardless of ability to pay, Community Health Centers offer the Hispanic community an answer to their healthcare needs.  That eight million Hispanic people have made health centers their medical home is not surprising. Health centers pride themselves on offering culturally competent and bilingual healthcare services to address the unique needs of their communities and patients. In fact a stepping stone that paved the way for the first Community Health Centers was the Migrant Health Act of 1962. The bill was signed by President John F. Kennedy and sought to address the health needs of the migrant population. Health center funding would come just five years later as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty initiative. Later the Migrant Health, Health Care for the Homeless, and Community Health Center federal health programs were consolidated. Today 35 percent of patient population served by health centers are Hispanic/Latino.

The important thing is that everyone benefits when there is unfettered access to care, no matter who you are, or where you are from.  Whether it is “Bienvenido” or “Welcome,” health centers’ doors are open and ready to meet your needs.


En Español

Según el último censo, hay 54 millones de hispanos que viven en los Estados Unidos. Representan el 17% de la población, y es la minoría étnica más grande en los EEUU. Navegar por el sistema de salud estadounidense puede crear un enorme desafío a esta creciente población. El laberinto de barreras que enfrentan diariamente puede incluir barreras idiomáticas y culturales, junto con la falta de acceso a atención médica preventiva y la falta de seguro de salud. Según el Centro Nacional de Salud para Trabajadores Agrícolas, se estima que 3 millones de trabajadores migrantes, en su mayoría hispanohablantes, apoyan la industria de la agricultura de 28 mil millones de dólares. Ellos son especialmente afectados por la falta de acceso a la atención médica debido a la pobreza y su frecuente movilidad.

Algunas causas principales de enfermedad y muerte entre la comunidad hispana son enfermedades que pueden ser prevenidas o administradas, incluyendo enfermedades cardíacas, cáncer, diabetes, obesidad y derrame cerebral. Los hispanos son menos propensos a padecer de cáncer en comparación con otras poblaciones, pero a menudo esperan hasta que sea demasiado tarde para conseguir exámenes preventivos y tratamiento.

Sin embargo, abiertos a todos sin importar la capacidad de pago, los Centros de Salud Comunitarios le ofrecen a la comunidad hispana un lugar para atender sus necesidades de salud. Que ocho millones de personas hispanas hayan hecho de estos centros médicos su casa médica no es sorprendente. Los Centros de Salud Comunitarios son orgullosos de su capacidad de ofrecer servicios de asistencia médica culturalmente competentes y bilingües que les permite dirigirse a las necesidades únicas de sus comunidades y pacientes. De hecho un paso que preparó el camino para los primeros centros de salud fue el Acto de la Salud Migratorio de 1962. La ley fue aprobada por el Presidente John F. Kennedy y procuró atender las necesidades de salud de la población migrante. Fondos para los Centros de Salud Comunitarios se otorgaron tan sólo cinco años más tarde como parte del guerra contra la pobreza, una iniciativa del Presidente Lyndon B. Johnson. Hoy 35% de la población de pacientes atendidos por los centros de salud son hispano/latino.

Lo importante es que todo el mundo se beneficia cuando hay acceso sin restricciones a la atención médica, no importa quién eres, o de dónde eres. No importa si es “Welcome” o “Bienvenido,” las puertas de los Centros de Salud Comunitarios están abiertas y listas para darle la atención médica que necesite.