In an effort to bring attention to the importance of Community Health Centers in the fight against cancer, the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) are partnering to recognize National Health Center Week, August 13-19.
Health centers are the family doctor to 1 in 13 Americans, or 25 million people. They provide quality and affordable services to individuals who typically struggle to access health care because they are either uninsured or underinsured, or live in places where basic health care services are scarce.
Not only to do health centers provide screenings for early detection of cancer, they also regularly deal with patients who are confronted with a cancer diagnosis and a scarcity of resources and support to navigate the complexities of a life-altering illness.
And, data released just last week show health centers reached a 39.9% colorectal cancer screening rate in 2016! That's a more than five percentage point jump since the launch of the 80% by 2018 campaign in 2014. And as of 2016, 28 health centers have already reached the 80% goal, according to Rich Wender, MD, our chief cancer control officer.
Peoples Community Health Clinic (PCHC) of Waterloo, Iowa, is one of those centers. Starting in 2013, PCHC partnered with the American Cancer Society and the Iowa Primary Care Association to increase colorectal cancer screening from a baseline rate of 31%. Through the support of a Walgreens CHANGE Grant and technical assistance provided by ACS, PCHC made significant innovations.
PCHC worked from the NCCRT's Steps for Increasing Colorectal Cancer Screening Rates: A Manual for Community Health Centers to establish process improvement teams and conduct current state assessments and process mapping. "It developed innovative approaches to talk with patients about colorectal cancer screening, as well as processes to provide consistent patient navigation and follow-up. Return rates for the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) soon climbed to 85%. And as of May 2017, PCHC surpassed the 80% by 2018 goal, achieving a truly remarkable rate of 82%," said Dr. Wender.
"Community Health Centers are the most important source of care for individuals who face barriers to achieving health, such as lack of insurance or access to affordable medical care," Dr. Wender added. "The dedicated health professionals who work at these centers provide vital services such as lifestyle counseling and cancer screening, as well as support and navigation for people undergoing cancer treatment."
"Health centers go beyond the medical chart for solutions to the complex problems patients confront that may affect their health and recovery," said Ron Yee, chief medical officer at NACHC. "For instance, we know health center patients who suffer from depression as a result of their cancer diagnosis, or may struggle with a lack of resources to afford prescription drugs or child care as they recover from surgery or treatment. Health centers by mission are problem-solvers and for a medically underserved cancer patient such an approach can be a lifeline."
There are NHCW events scheduled across the country, including health fairs, visits by members of Congress and state officials to local health centers, press conferences, back-to-school drives, community breakfasts, patient appreciation events, free health screenings and dental cleanings, and much more.
To learn more about NHCW and the listing of events please visit: www.healthcenterweek.org.
You can also follow the conversation using #NHCW17 on Twitter.