NEW YORKSurvival rates could be improved if all women understood the benefits of early detection and could utilize high-quality breast cancer screening services in their communities, regardless of their ability to pay, said Wanda K. Jones, DrPh, leadoff speaker at the National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations (NABCO) Celebration 2000 fund-raising luncheon.
We are focusing our efforts to address the breast cancer needs of the special population of medically underserved women in the United States, said Dr. Jones, deputy assistant secretary for womens health, US Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Jones is working with NABCO to break down the barriers to accessing screening services and education among minority, uninsured, and low-income women, who experience disproportionately high rates of late-stage detection.
Although cultural beliefs, language, and disability are all barriers to accessing the health care system, Dr. Jones said that the most formidable barrier is poverty.
The US governments program to screen low-income women for breast and cervical cancer created in 1990 and administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided more than 1 million mammograms to underserved women since its inception. But, Dr. Jones pointed out, this program is only funded to offer services to 12% to 15% of eligible women.
Within Our Reach
To address this gap, NABCO has launched a new outreach program that will increase the number of low-income women in the United States who receive breast cancer education and screening.
The NABCO effort, Within Our Reach, will offer technical assistance and grant funding ($400,000 in 2001) to nonprofit and university-based community screening programs. NABCO will award these grants in a competitive application process in collaboration with the CDCs national screening program.
Of the more than 40 million uninsured in the United States, the majority are women and children, said Amy Langer, NABCOs executive director and a 15-year breast cancer survivor. As caregivers to their families, these women have neither the means nor the opportunity to take care of their own breast health.
NABCOs new program will be funded in part by a consortium of supporters, including some of the worlds leading pharmaceutical companies.
The major sponsors are AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Bristol-Myers Squibb Oncology, Eli Lilly and Company, Novartis Oncology, and Pharmacia and Upjohn.
Also highlighted at the luncheon was NABCOs Breast Health Initiative with the Womens National Basketball Association (WNBA), beginning its fourth season.
This year, with the addition of a national sponsor, Sears, Roebuck and Co., the educational program will expand beyond the sports arena into the community. With help from Sears, NABCO will promote the CDCs screening program to low-income women in the WNBAs 16 team markets, and offer technical assistance and additional support to the national screening program.
John Labbad, director of event marketing and sales promotion, Sears, Roebuck and Co., said that Sears has made a $1 million commitment to NABCO over the next 3 years.