'Latina Initiative' aims to catch cancer
- Doug Burkhardt
- Portland Tribune - Opinion
Ignolia Duyck, community outreach manager for Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Cornelius, knows a newly launched health care initiative will save the lives of women in the Latino community and she is very grateful.
The program is the Poder y Vida (power and life) Latina Initiative, and over the next five years, Susan G. Komen of Oregon & Southwest Washington, Kaiser Permanente Northwest and several other community organizations will be teaming up to make sure Latinas have vastly improved access to early breast cancer screening.
With Latino women, part of the culture is to put our family first, Duyck said. Many of these women are working to take care of children and everybody else but themselves. Were saving lives by giving knowledge and empowering women.
The Latina Initiative shifted into high gear last week when, on May 29, Kaiser Permanente donated $1.3 million to provide major funding for the program. The money and in-kind services Kaiser Permanente is providing will be used for earlier breast cancer screenings for Latinas across northwest Oregon. Kaiser will donate as many as 2,800 breast cancer screenings and better access to its health care facilities for treatment. The campaign will target communities with unusually high numbers of late-stage diagnoses, and Spanish-speaking media outlets will help spread the message throughout Hispanic communities around the region.
Early detection is essential in treating cancer, but statistics show Latinas are too often not being diagnosed until the disease has reached more critical stages.
Heres what is driving this, explained Thomas Bruner, chief executive officer for Susan G. Komen. We took a look at breast cancer data, and saw Latinas were diagnosed more often with late-stage breast cancer than non-Latinas.
The figures are compelling: according to Bruner, the breast cancer study showed Latinas had a late-stage diagnosis rate of 36 percent, while breast cancer in all other ethnicities combined was discovered in the later stages 26 percent of the time.
Thats a really big disparity, Bruner said. If someone is diagnosed in the late stages, the chance of survival is dramatically decreased. If its caught in the early stages, there is a 99 percent chance of living at least five years.
Bruner said the stark difference in health care opportunities and outcomes for Latinas was not acceptable.
We have got to do something about it, he said. We spent a year with Latina-serving organizations and figured out a five-year project intended to do two things: increase screening rates and decrease late-stage diagnoses. If we do those things, we can save Latinas lives, literally.
Besides the Komen organization, Kaiser Permanente is partnering with Meyer Memorial Trust, Reser Family Foundation, Wells Fargo, Juan Young Trust, Wessinger Foundation, Jackson Foundation, Spirit Mountain Community Fund and the Collins Foundation to pursue the project, along with Bustos Media and KUNP Univision-Mundo Fox, the Latina Initiatives primary media partner.
Catherine Potter, Kaiser Permanentes safety net partnerships coordinator, said the company decided to participate because Poder y Vida is an important initiative with a unique model.
We could get involved by supporting the infrastructure, providing donated mammograms and sponsoring Spanish-language media, Potter said. Were really hopeful this will make a big impact.
Bruner pointed out that the main target group will be Latinas 40 and over who are uninsured and have not been screened in at least four years if ever. The Latina Initiative will help these women overcome the obstacles that have prevented them from being able to get adequate health care.
Well address whatever obstacles they identify whether it be transportation, child care, language or immigration status, he explained.
The first two communities being focused on this year are Aloha-Beaverton and Gresham-Rockwood.
These areas are where the population has the highest levels of late-stage diagnosis, Potter said. Its a design Komen came up with. We want to move the needle on this disparity and make sure its not a disparity any longer.
Next year, Salem-Keizer and the inner east side of Portland will be included.
The Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center is in the heart of the battle to overcome breast cancer, and in the wake of last weeks announcement by Kaiser Permanente, members of the Virginia Garcia staff have already started calling patients and doing initial assessments. Duyck said the two Virginia Garcia community health workers based in Cornelius have a great deal of work ahead of them.
We have a list of about 700 women meeting the criteria, Duyck explained, adding that in-kind donations from Kaiser Permanente will allow Virginia Garcia to provide mammograms for 220 of its patients.
Its 220 women now, but there could be more were able to do this for in the future, Duyck said. Its going to be a lot of work, but Im so glad.
While Virginia Garcia will take the lead in the Aloha-Beaverton area, the Wallace Medical Concern will do so in Gresham and Rockwood. In both areas, the efforts of local community health care workers are considered essential to the Latina Initiative.
They are helping identify women and getting them assistance. Without them, it wouldnt be complete, said Potter. Having these folks on the ground and connected with the community makes it all a reality.
Potter noted that Latinas are diagnosed with breast cancer at a lower rate than the general population, but more die from it.
Thats partly because they are not screened early, or, once cancer is diagnosed, the service and care is lacking, she said. The number of uninsured Latinos is at a much higher level than in the general population.
Many of our patients are uninsured, Duyck explained. For them to pay for a mammogram, its really expensive $450. Who can afford that when they need that money for food or other needs? And also there is a fear to find out. In our culture, cancer equals death. Thats it; theres no hope.
One of the main elements of the Latina Initiative is education, to change attitudes and make sure people understand that if they are diagnosed early, there is a very good survival rate.
Its a concerted effort of radio, TV and community members, and were providing dollars to support that and provide medical experts to create informational segments to air on Spanish-language media, Bruner explained.
At the end of the day, this is all about one thing looking at the information that showed Latinas in our area were dying too often, and that was preventable, Bruner said. Were going to go change that.
Duyck said there is no doubt the Latina Initiative will prove to be a life-saver.
This is a gift from Kaiser Permanente, she said. Its a chance; an opportunity many, many women have never had.