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ACS NCCRT announces national achievement award winners

Honor recognizes five partners focused on increasing colorectal cancer screening.

On March 5, the American Cancer Society National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (ACS NCCRT), founded in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), honored five organizations for their extraordinary work to increase colorectal cancer screening rates across the U.S. with the 2024 80% In Every Community National Achievement Award.

This honor recognizes individuals and organizations who dedicate their time, talent, and expertise to advancing needed initiatives that support the shared goal to reach colorectal screening rates of 80 percent and higher in communities across the nation. The awards include one grand prize winner and four other honorees, each of whom receives a monetary award to support continued efforts to increase colorectal cancer screening. 

The award announcement comes following the recent 2024 Cancer Facts and Figures which  revealed there is a growing incidence of colorectal cancer among people younger than 55 years old. Even more concerning the report also showed colorectal cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death in men and the second in women under 50 years old.

“As the number of new cases continues to rise, it is important to remember that colorectal cancer is treatable and beatable, especially when it is caught early,” said Dr. Arif Kamal, ACS chief patient officer. “While there is a lot to do to increase screening rates for colorectal cancer, I’m grateful for the effort our honorees have made to close the gap nationwide.”

Interested in learning more about the 2024 awardees? Register to join the NCCRT Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month Webcast on Wednesday, March 13, from 12 noon – 1 p.m. ET.  

This year's recipients include The Southwest Coalition for Colorectal Cancer Screening (SuCCCeS) program, El Paso, TX; Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, Tallahassee, FL; Unity Medical Center, Grafton and Park River, ND; Family Health Services, South Central, ID; Mikisha Longie, Belcourt, ND. Here are more details about this year’s recipients: 

Grand Prize Winner: The Southwest Coalition for Colorectal Cancer Screening (SuCCCeS) program
Category: Cancer Program

The Southwest Coalition for Colorectal Cancer Screening (SuCCCeS) program is designed to reduce the rates of colorectal cancer (CRC) in El Paso, Texas, and the surrounding 56 counties. Based at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, SuCCCeS works in partnership with multiple community organizations and is supported by funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The program serves a population of 2.56 million people who are primarily medically underserved, ethnically diverse, and located in rural and border communities. SuCCCeS focuses on sustainably engaging healthcare systems and community organizations to address identified barriers to reducing CRC disparities and funding screening. To date, SuCCCeS has distributed over 31,000 fecal immunochemical test (FIT) kits, with a return rate of 71 percent. SuCCCeS has scheduled over 800 high-risk screening and over 1100 diagnostic colonoscopies for patients with positive or abnormal FIT results, with a completion rate of 74 percent. SuCCCeS credits their high FIT return and follow-up colonoscopy completion rates to working within and listening to their community and being a resource for other partners. They are most proud of the cancers they have prevented or caught early with their work, which, as of January 2024, stands at 34 cancers diagnosed and over 1000 individuals with adenomatous polyps removed.  

ACS Regional Involvement: Martha Zepeda, Associate Director, Community Partnerships, works closely on multiple projects with Dr. Jennifer Molokwu, the director of SuCCCeS.

Category: State Government Agency 

Honoree: Florida Agency for Health Care Administration 

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration contracts Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) to achieve high quality health outcomes for Floridians with low socioeconomic resources. In 2022, the baseline rate for colorectal cancer (CRC) screening among Florida Medicaid MCO enrollees was 45 percent. The Agency sought to rapidly increase that rate and therefore created a new healthcare policy that incentivized MCOs through a point system designed with input from the American Cancer Society, Exact Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over nine months of biweekly meetings, the group of public-private partners used real time data to share progress and strategies to increase CRC screening, including new data flows, gap analyses with physicians, outreach methods and events, social and text messaging campaigns, celebrity promotions, and focus on disparate subpopulations. Nearly 40,000 Floridians were screened in a 9-month period, representing a 6 percent increase to 51 percent and totaled 85,000 Floridians up to date with CRC screening in 2023. The Agency is most proud of the synergy achieved from this public-private partnership, which depended on a willingness to rapidly change business practices, interactive communication, and ingenuity among data scientists, Chief Medical Officers, quality directors, and outreach teams.

ACS Regional Involvement: Leah Mitchem, Associate Director, State Partnerships, has worked closely with Dr. Cogle, Florida Agency for Health Care Administration’s Chief Medical Officer, over the past few years, including on projects and professional panels. 

Category: Health System

Honoree: Unity Medical Center 

Unity Medical Center is a nonprofit critical access hospital with primary care clinics in Grafton and Park River, North Dakota, serving 20,000 people in Walsh County and the surrounding mainly rural areas. In October of 2022, Unity Medical Center developed an ambitious action plan to improve their colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates from a baseline of 41 percent to 70 percent by December 2023. Their plan employed evidence-based interventions such as provider and patient reminders, patient education, internal policy change, standing orders, EHR data and reporting, and improved provider recommendations to patients. Unity Medical Center also participated actively in the North Dakota CRC Roundtable through their provider champion, Dr. Jared Marquardt, the state roundtable chair. As of December 2023, their CRC screening rates have risen to 69 percent and are still rising. They are most proud of the huge amount of buy in from the staff, who are enjoying their innovative techniques to reach the community by focusing on their patients and unique partners.  

ACS Regional Involvement: Jill Ireland and Kaylee Vandjelovic, Associate Directors, State Partnerships, work closely with the North Dakota Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, of which Dr. Marquardt is a chair and a primary care physician at Unity Medical Center.

Category: Community Health Center

Honoree: Family Health Services 

Family Health Services is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in South Central Idaho serving over 30,000 patients in an eight-county rural area through eleven locations. In 2015, only 18 percent of the age-eligible population at Family Health Services was up to date with colorectal cancer (CRC) screening. The health center received state grant funding to increase their CRC screening rates and thereafter refocused their efforts on patient education and outreach, barrier identification, provider recommendation, navigation to colonoscopy for patients with a positive or abnormal stool test, and an innovative program that fundraises at least $25,000 each year for discount colonoscopies from referral partners. They continue to look for innovative ways to increase CRC screening by addressing various barriers, including those related to insurance, income, geography, or culture. January 2024 data shows the health center’s overall CRC screening rate has reached 56.2 percent, with some clinics and providers achieving rates of 60 percent to 75 percent. Health center staff are most proud of how their team set the bar high to reach their goal CRC screening rate. Through consistent quality improvement work and staff buy-in, they are reaching and exceeding expectations. 

ACS Regional Involvement: Jana Gurkin, Associate Director, Cancer Center Partnerships, works with Family Health Services in Idaho. 

Category: Survivor Champion 

Honoree: Mikisha Longie 

Mikisha Longie is a colorectal cancer (CRC) survivor, public health nurse at the Quentin N. Burdick Memorial Health Care Facility of the Indian Health Service (IHS), and champion for CRC screening as a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Reservation. Her insistence on using data to drive decision making revealed a significant regression in CRC screening within the clinic post-COVID. To address this, Mikisha has worked to spearhead collaborative efforts between public health, tribal health educators, and the IHS clinics in her community. Strategies she has championed include patient education in multiple venues and forms, patient navigation, standing orders for average risk patients, and EHR improvements, such as building a provider assessment report to review at monthly meetings. From February to August of 2023, the clinic achieved a 42.8 percent improvement in CRC screening rates largely attributable to Mikisha’s work. Mikisha is most proud that her team's efforts are making a difference in their community screening rates.   

ACS Regional Involvement: Jill Ireland and Kaylee Vandjelovic, Associate Directors, State Partnerships, work closely with the North Dakota Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, who brought Mikisha as a speaker for their 2023 meeting.

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