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​Six locations identified to start pilot work in health equity

The American Cancer Society announced its first cohort of pilot community projects to address health equity and the social determinants of health. The six locations are:

  • East Cleveland, Ohio
  • Flint, Michigan
  • Jackson, Mississippi
  • Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • The state of Montana

The second cohort of pilot community projects will launch later this year.

This initiative is part of our funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is helping ACS remove barriers to cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and survivorship in communities that bear a disproportionate cancer burden, so everyone has the opportunity to live a longer, healthier life. 

Work in the selected communities will span 18 months, from April 2019 to September 2020. The six locations were chosen based on their clear documentation of cancer disparities; existing health equity momentum in the community; and staff, volunteer, and partner capacity and willingness to advance health equity and meaningfully engage people in the targeted communities.  

Designed to bring together community members, cross-sector partners, and ACS and ACS CAN volunteers and staff, the pilot communities will grow their knowledge, skills, and confidence about health equity. These cross-functioning groups will identify and implement community-driven solutions.

"Collaborating with ACS demonstrates our joint interest and experience in improving the lives and health of people in our communities," said Marianella Napolitano, MBA, RN, chief of healthcare programs at The Centers for Families and Children in Cleveland. "We look forward to working with ACS to increase public awareness and strengthen community partnerships to help deliver measurable improvement."

Research shows that many factors contribute to cancer disparities and affect a person's ability to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer. These factors, or root causes of cancer disparities, are known as the social determinants of health. They include poverty, conscious and unconscious racism, barriers to the availability of healthy foods, and a "built environment" that limits opportunities for physical activity and access to high-quality health care. 

"ACS's health equity journey will evolve over time as we learn with and from communities, new and refined public health interventions emerge, and disparities diminish or increase based on community needs and opportunities," said Tracy Wiedt, MPH, managing director, healthy communities at ACS  "We are interested in testing out and learning from the pilot community project model before we scale the model in more geographic areas."

Each community involved in the pilot will work to build a health equity action plan that is unique and specific to the assets and needs of their community. Their solutions will address social determinants of health such as financial stability/hardship, access to healthy foods/food insecurity, and transportation/mobility. The communities selected will create and participate in a peer-learning environment together. 

"I fully value ACS in recognizing the need to effectively integrate health equity across the organization, coupled with its interactions with other organizational partners and communities," said Gary Gilmore, MPH, PhD, MCHES, professor and director, graduate community health and public health programs at the University of Wisconsin.

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