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Society announces its first-ever community health center awards

In honor of 2017 National Health Center Week, the American Cancer Society is recognizing outstanding achievement among community health centers with our first-ever national community health center awards. 

"Together with our partners at community health centers around the country, we're making measurable progress," said Rich Wender, MD, our chief cancer control officer. For example, our partners at Great Lakes Bay Health in Michigan increased breast cancer screening rates to more than 70% from 31% with support from our Community Health Advocates implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment & Equity (CHANGE) Grant programs. In Florida, we collaborated with the I.M. Sulzbacher Health Center to increase access to breast cancer screenings and enhance patient navigation with support from an NFL Crucial Catch grant.

Here are the national honorees and our Primary Care Systems staff who support them:

  • North Region: Peoples Community Health Clinic, Waterloo, IA
    • Award Category: Health screenings (colorectal cancer screening)
    • ACS staff partner: Nilani Downs
  • South Region: Legacy Community Health, Houston,TX
    • Award Category: Health screenings (colorectal cancer screening)
    • ACS staff partner: Gloria Robinson 
  • Northeast Region: Brownsville Multi-Service Center Family Health Center, Brooklyn, NY
    • Award Category: public housing health centers (healthy lifestyle programs)
    • ACS staff partner: LaToya Williams 
  • Northeast Region: Hudson River HealthCare, Peekskill, NY
    • Award Category: consumer board member (winner: Alan Steiner, HRH Board of Directors chair for support of colorectal cancer screening)
    • ACS staff partners: Amy Wen and Amanda Schnipper 
  • Southeast Region: I.M. Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless, Jacksonville, FL
    • Award Category: health care for the homeless (breast cancer screening)
    • ACS staff partner: Lauren Cunningham 
  • North Central Region: Great Lakes Bay Health, Saginaw, MI
    • Award Category: agricultural worker health (breast cancer screening)
    • ACS staff partner: Abby Moler
  • West Region: Neighborhood Healthcare, Escondido, CA
    • Award Category: children's health (HPV vaccination)
    • ACS staff partner: Karina Moyano 

"It's no secret that the American Cancer Society's Health Systems team is one of the finest public health workforces in the country. I'm always amazed – but never surprised – to learn their hard work, dedication, and spirit of collaboration is making a real impact in communities throughout the U.S.," said Dr. Wender. 

Community health centers (CHCs) are a top priority for our Primary Care Systems staff. "This team has made a remarkable amount of progress over the last several years, building relationships and providing expertise to CHCs in an effort to reach more underserved individuals. Our team has become an increasingly relevant partner for CHCs, which has translated to a real impact on our efforts to address disparities," he added.

Congratulations to all! 

  • We love Community Health Centers!

    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:

    You can also follow the conversation using #NHCW17 on Twitter.

  • ACS helps bust cancer myths in Africa and beyond

    Martine Chaussard, our program manager, Global Cancer Prevention & Early Detection, has written a fascinating guest blog entry on the growing cancer burden in low- and middle-income countries, where the signs, symptoms and causes of the disease are often misunderstood — even by the medical community. Martine (pictured in the smaller photo) says this lack of knowledge "can delay diagnosis, reduce the chance of successful treatment, and more importantly, set cancer patients and their families on a traumatic journey, riddled with fear, stigma, and uncertainty."

    That's why the American Cancer Society has partnered with the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP) and with governments and cancer control organizations in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda to adapt key patient and caregiver education materials used in the U.S. for these East African audiences.

    The upshot of this effort was a wide group of local cancer control stakeholders coming together with local communications experts, illustrators, and translators to create educational materials that directly counter the misconceptions found in each country. They explain, among other things, that cancer isn't contagious or a punishment for a sin; a biopsy doesn't spread the cancer; and radiation therapy doesn't burn a hole in the body.

    Better yet, the materials are now available to other cancer organizations around the globe. An online toolkit on the K4Health platform houses the newly developed materials, and includes step-by-step instructions and resources to guide the development of culturally appropriate materials that meet the needs of local populations.

    Starting this summer, the ACS and CCP are partnering again to create culturally appropriate cancer prevention materials geared toward healthy populations. Pilot projects will be launched later this year in India, Kenya, and Uganda, and an adaptation toolkit for prevention materials will be available online before the end of the year.

    Read Martine's full entry on Sally Cowal's blog on Medium.

  • Higher income individuals undertake more efficient, ‘Weekend Warrior’ behavior, yet are more sedentary than less affluent

    New research led by American Cancer Society researchers used activity monitors to find that higher income individuals are more likely to be "weekend warriors," getting most of their activity on only a few days a week. Yet, while higher income individuals meet the suggested physical activity guidelines in fewer days than their lower income counterparts, they spend more time in sedentary pursuits, such as sitting in offices.

    The study, in collaboration with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Georgia State University, appears in Preventive Medicine.

    Income has been shown to be a prominent barrier to engaging in physical activity. Individuals with low incomes face time constraints as well as other barriers, including lack of exercise facilities, parks and open space, as well as an inflexible work environment, and have been shown to be less likely to meet physical activity guidelines. Meanwhile, higher income individuals who often also have limited time, have more resources and places to exercise, which could facilitate their ability to meet activity guidelines. However, they also are more likely to hold sedentary jobs, like office work.

    For the new study, investigators Kerem Shuval and Qing Li (American Cancer Society), Kelley Pettee Gabriel (University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston,) and Rusty Tchernis (Georgia State University), used accelerometer data to analyze physical activity and sedentary behavior in relation to income levels among 5,206 U.S. adults enrolled in The National Health and Examination Survey from 2003-06, a nationally representative survey.

    The study found that compared to those making less than $20,000 per year, those with an annual income of $75,000 or more engaged in 4.6 more daily minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity as measured by activity monitors. High income individuals also engaged in 9.3 fewer minutes of light intensity activity, spent 11.8 more minutes daily sedentary, were 1.6 times more likely to meet guidelines for a brief two-day period ('weekend warrior'), and were 1.9 times more likely to meet guidelines during a 7-day period.

    "Our findings pertaining to income and the 'weekend warrior' effect underscore the importance of tailoring the physical activity message to reflect the constraints of both low and high income individuals," said Dr. Shuval. "To meet guidelines, one can engage in 150 minutes of weekly moderate intensity activity over a 2 or 3-day period rather than 7 days, for example. This can be achieved over a long weekend, a message we may want to convey to those pressed for time. It is important to remember, however, that we should increase the duration and intensity of activity gradually to avoid injury. Also, if inactive consult with a physician before embarking on an exercise program."

    Previous research has shown that higher income individuals are more likely to be physically active at a higher intensity. However, this research has historically relied on self-reporting, which may exaggerate actual activity levels. Information collected via activity monitors has shown that less than 5% of U.S. adults meet physical activity guidelines. This is despite ample evidence supporting the link between physical activity and reduced risk for premature death and many diseases, including some cancers.

  • Our PGA Tour volunteer is in the lead by 125 votes! Please vote if you haven't already

    Please help us raise funds for the Society by voting for Robert Dow, president of Perks and a volunteer again this year in the PGA TOUR Volunteer Challenge. He's currently in the No. 1 spot. Please help him maintain his lead by voting now, if you haven't already.

    Robert, a longtime The Northern Trust (formerly the Barclays) tournament volunteer, has selected the American Cancer Society once again as his charity of choice. Voting runs through August 26. 

    Although The Northern Trust charity of choice is Tackle Kids Cancer, which is listed for all volunteers, Robert is competing for the chance to present a $5,000 check to ACS. "This cause is near and dear to my family," he said. "My wife is a breast cancer survivor, my mother-in-law is a 30-year breast cancer survivor, my wife's grandmother died from ovarian cancer, and my sister-in-law was diagnosed with cancer."

    The details

    You can only vote once per email address, and before you can cast your vote you will be asked to fill out a short form. Once you vote, you will need to confirm your email and then your vote will be counted. You'll get a message like the one you see in the top photo.


    Each year, the PGA TOUR and its tournaments raise millions of dollars for charity, with more than $2.14 billion raised to date. Fans can get in on the charitable giving by participating in the PGA TOUR Volunteer Challenge, designed to raise funds for a variety of non-profit organizations and philanthropic causes while recognizing the talent, passion, and commitment of PGA TOUR volunteers in communities nationwide.

    To participate in the PGA TOUR Volunteer Challenge, volunteers register on the website and then invite their friends and family members to vote for them as their favorite tournament volunteer. At the end of the voting period, the volunteer with the most votes will win the chance to donate $5,000 in his or her name to the charity of their choice from an approved list of charities selected by the tournament.

    Take action

    Please vote for Robert today, and encourage your colleagues, friends, and family to do the same!

    Remember, voting ends on Saturday, August 26.

    If you are on social media . . .

    Consider using social media to promote Robert's amazing efforts on behalf of the American Cancer Society, and include the above link so your friends and followers can vote for him, too.

  • A recap of this month's Society Talk

    Thank you to the guests and all leadership volunteers who tuned in August 10 to listen to Society leaders provide updates on Staff Development Day, Relay For Life, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, cancer disparities, and Navigation Tools and other IT issues. It was the first Society Talk appearance for two of our guests -- Len Lichtenfeld, MD, our deputy chief medical officer, and Blake Sanders, SVP, Information Technology, and we were happy they were able to join us live in our Atlanta studio.

    If you tuned in late or had to leave early, or missed the show altogther, no worries.A full replay will be available through this link.

    Here are the highlights of today's show:

    From our CEO Gary Reedy, we learned that:

    • While we may be experiencing some revenue challenges with Relay For Life, the Society is strong financially.
    • Relay income has been declining for nine years. "I thought we were in a position to stabilize it this year, and I was wrong," he said. Because of how people's lives have changed and how they choose to spend their time, we will be putting more emphasis on non-event revenue streams, he said. 
    • The 46 executive directors gathered in Atlanta last week, their first meeting as a new team. In fact, those folks filmed the opening welcome video on today's show.
    • The three open EVP positions have not yet been filled. He said the process is taking longer because he is hoping to find diverse candidates to fill those spots. He said he is meeting with two finalists in the next couple of weeks.
    • Our Board meets next week and will be talking about our diversity and inclusion plan, and the status of our ACS Research Venture Fund, to which we will be appointing advisors soon. In addition, we are working with several high net-worth individuals on funding several very large research grants. 
    • Gary said "I am really pleased with where we are in our transition to the new American Cancer Society." He said he challenges everyone to be creative, innovative, take risks, and get off auto-pilot. "Our biggest challenge right now is us," he said, "and the culture that we have had versus the culture we are building."  He said if he ever asks you why you did something, do not say "because that's the way we've always done it." That's the wrong answer, Gary said.

    From Maria Clark, SVP, Volunteer Events, and Susan Petre, VP, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, we learned that:

    • Today development staff across the organization are meeting in offices to learn more about all of our revenue products, how to be better salespeople, how to engage more constituents, and to strategize. Check Yammer for photos and updates on Staff Development Day.
    • The global launch of our next Relay For Life season will take place in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 12. It will be broadcast live and viewing parties will be organized by our volunteers.
    • We are challenging people to become a Hope Hero by signing up for Making Strides online and raising $25 by Sept. 9. Everyone who does that will get a pink cape - just like the one Susan was wearing in her pre-recorded video. We are hoping to attract new people to our events. You can help by spreading the word and thinking about people who might want to captain a team or join a team. Of course, you can start your own team!
    • The Real Men Wear Pink campaign raised $5.5 million last year, and we are aiming for $10 million this year!  "I don't think we realize how big this could be," said Gary, who was the #3 RMWP fundraiser in Atlanta last year.

    From Otis Brawley, MD, our chief medical officer, and Dr. Len, we learned that:

    • ACS is taking a leadership roll in ensuring that all people have access to the information, screenings, and treatment they need to fight cancer.
    • Along with three other leading cancer organizations, we released a joint statement recently that outlines a strategy to help all people benefit from cancer research, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or where they live. 
    • About 25% of Americans are getting sub-standard care, and we have a moral obligation to do something about that, Dr. Brawley said.
    • Dr. Len noted that the recent efforts on the part of ACS CAN "to preserve the Affordable Care Act" illustrates our commitment to this cause.
    From Blake Sanders we learned that:

    • Our new financial management system is scheduled to be deployed on Jan. 1, 2018, and our new CRM software will follow in August of 2018.
    • Gary said the new CRM system will help us understand our customers perhaps better than they understand themselves.
    • 100 staffers signed up to serve on a Navigation Tools user focus group. Just 20 slots were available. Thank you!
    • The Society has been the victim of 10 phishing attacks this year, four of them in the past 30 days. Blake encouraged staff to click the 'Report as Phishing' link if they think an email might be a phishing attempt. Never click links you are not 100% sure are safe, and don't share your user name and password.

  • Tune in Thursday for Part 2 of Discovery Channel's "First in Human," an unprecedented look at the clinical trials being conducted at NIH

    On Thursday, August 17, the Discovery Channel will air Part 2 of First in Human, an unprecedented look inside the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center in Bethesda, MD, where 1,600 high risk clinical trials are going on right now.  For millions of patients around the world, it is known as the 'House of Hope.'

    The documentary chronicles patients, including a young man with leukemia, their families, doctors, and researchers as the patients undergo experimental treatments at the hospital. Known to NIH insiders as Building 10, the Clinical Center is the world's largest clinical research hospital.

    Some of our own leaders have done research there. Throughout the month of August, we will feature stories on Society Source of ACS staff who participated in research associated with Building 10.  Be on the lookout forOtis Brawley, MD, our chief medical officer, and Arnold Baskies, our Board chair, to share their experiences. And, Rich Wender, MD, will explore how research conducted at NIH impacts programs we offer at the community level.

    More documentary details

    The documentary airs over three Thursday evenings: August 10, 17, and 24, at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT. The narrator is actor Jim Parsons, from the TV show "The Big Bang Theory" and the movie "Hidden Figures."

    Because the treatments they're testing in Building 10 are so new and their outcomes are entirely unknown, the doctors leading phase 1 trials, also known as first-in-human trials, partner with patients who have exhausted the options the medical establishment has to offer.

    The documentary will feature NCI researchers and staff leading trials of a type of immune-based cellular therapy known as adoptive cell transfer (ACT). Immunotherapy is one of the most exciting areas of cancer research, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved six immune checkpoint inhibitors for a growing number of cancers, including Hodgkin lymphoma, lung cancer, and melanoma. ACT therapies are beginning to catch up—in particular treatments known as CAR T-cell therapy. Two CAR T-cell therapy products, in fact, are currently being reviewed by the FDA for the treatment of patients with different types of blood cancers.

    First in Human will feature Steve Rosenberg, MD, PhD, an ACT pioneer who conducted the first trials of TIL therapy for patients with melanoma, and Terry Fry, MD, who is leading trials of CAR T cells in children with leukemia. 

    Clinical Center successes include:

    • Pioneering the cure of cancerous solid tumors with chemotherapy
    • The use of nitroglycerin to treat heart attacks
    • Identifying a genetic component in schizophrenia
    • Conducting the first successful replacement of a mitral valve to treat heart disease
    • The creation of blood tests to identify both Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and hepatitis

     "I know that everyone who watches First in Human will feel the same sense of pride I did when I discovered this incredible institution that our country created. I hope viewers will share the sense of gratitude and awe that I felt when learning about the human beings who bravely put their lives in the hands of some of our most innovative scientists and doctors as they search together for the medicines and cures that give all of us fuller, longer lives. This is truly the story of how we, as human beings, function: both at an elemental level and at our most profound," Parsons said.

    Watch a preview here.

    More details can be found on the Discovery Channel website.

  • Colorectal cancer death rates are rising in whites under 55

    new ACS study finds that colorectal cancer mortality rates have increased in white adults under 55 since the mid-2000s after falling for decades, strengthening evidence that previously reported increases in incidence in this age group are not solely the result of more screening.

    Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the report says: "Although the risk of colorectal cancer remains low for young and middle-aged adults, rising mortality strongly suggests that the increase in incidence is not only earlier detection of prevalent cancer, but a true and perplexing escalation in disease occurrence. It is especially surprising for people in their 50s, for whom screening is recommended, and highlights the need for interventions to improve use of age-appropriate screening and timely follow-up of symptoms."

    ACS investigators led by Rebecca Siegel, MPH, analyzed colorectal cancer (CRC) mortality among persons aged 20 to 54 years, by race, from 1970 through 2014, using data from the National Center for Health Statistics. 

    The analysis included 242,637 people ages 20 to 54 who died from CRC between 1970 and 2014. CRC mortality rates among those ages 20 to 54 declined from 6.3 per 100,000 in 1970 to 3.9 in 2004, at which point mortality rates began to increase by 1.0% annually, eventually reaching 4.3 per 100,000 in 2014.

    The increase thus far is confined to white men and women and is most rapid for metastatic disease.

    Breakdown by age

    • Mortality remained stable in white individuals ages 20 to 29 from 1988-2014
    • Mortality increased 1.6% per year in white men and women ages 30 to 39 years, from 1995-2014
    • Mortality increased by 1.9% per year in white men and women ages 40 to 49 years, from 2005-2014
    • Mortality rates increased by 0.9% per year for white men and women ages 50 to 54 years, from 2005-014. The report notes that "Increased mortality is particularly unexpected among those aged 50 to 54 years, for whom screening has been recommended since the 1970s."  However, according to Rebecca Siegel, while screening prevalence has increased for all age groups over 50, it is lower in people 50 to 54 than in those 55 and older, 44% versus 62% in 2013.

    Conversely, rates declined in black individuals in every age group

    The authors note that these disparate racial patterns are inconsistent with trends in major risk factors for colorectal cancer, like obesity, which is universally increasing.

    Breakdown for non-whites

    • Among black individuals, mortality declined throughout the study period, at a rate of 0.4% to 1.1% annually, from 8.1 in 1970 to 6.1 in 2014.
    • Among other races combined, mortality rates declined from 1970-2006 and were stable thereafter.

    The study notes that CRC mortality overall is declining rapidly, masking trends in young adults, making this an area ripe for more examination. 

    Signs and symptoms

    Because young people can and do get colon and rectal cancer, it is important for them -- and their doctors -- to pay attention to signs and symptoms, and be educated about the importance of healthy lifestyles.

    The most common signs and symptoms include:

    • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
    • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by doing so
    • Rectal bleeding
    • Dark stools, or blood in the stool
    • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
    • Weakness and fatigue
    • Unintended weight loss

    You can lower your colorectal cancer risk by:

    • Eating lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and less red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) and processed meats (hot dogs and some luncheon meats)
    • Getting regular exercise
    • Watching your weight
    • Avoiding tobacco
    • Limiting alcohol. The American Cancer Society recommends no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. 

  • Free webinar Aug 11: What to do when cancer changes your financial plans

    ​If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, a trusted advisor such as a CPA or financial planner can help you navigate associated financial matters. To help guide you through the process, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the American Cancer Society are partnering to host a free webinar, "What to do When Cancer Changes Your Financial Plans," on Friday, August 11, at 11 a.m. ET.

    In this webcast, Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, our deputy chief medical officer, and Martin Shenkman, CPA/PFS, MBA, AEP, JD, a long-time Planned Giving leadership volunteer, will guide you through what you need to know, including:

    • Managing the costs of cancer treatment and daily living expenses
    • Advance directives and other legal and estate planning documents
    • Insurance considerations
    • Support programs and services, including those offered by the American Cancer Society

    Register early for the August 11 webinar as space is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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