CHICAGO, Oct. 22 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — In what is gaining national recognition as a model for citywide collaboration to address racial health care disparities, The Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force delivered its first report to the community, one year after releasing a major report that outlined more than 30 recommendations for action.
Attended by Chicago’s most prominent public health leaders, representatives from leading national cancer foundations, cancer experts, African-American community advocates and breast cancer survivors, the event was held at St. Paul Church of God in Christ, a prominent African-American church on Chicago’s South Side.
“The Task Force, which now consists of 74 health care organizations and over 100 breast cancer physicians, researchers and advocates, has made good progress since releasing its recommendations a year ago,” said Dr. David Ansell, chair of the Board of the Task Force and Chief Medical Officer, Rush University Medical Center. “Thanks to grants from Komen and Avon, we are awarding significant funding for community education and outreach, tackling the issue of mammography quality measurement and reporting, driving legislation to increase access to early diagnosis and treatment and dedicating the necessary resources to sustain the work of the Task Force for at least three years.”
The Task Force also introduced its new Executive Director, Marie Rule Gilliam, MHSA, an experienced health care executive with more than 15 years of healthcare management experience at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Chicago Hospitals, the Chicago Asthma Consortium and the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Breast Cancer Mortality Disparity Continued to Grow through 2005
New breast cancer mortality data from 2004 and 2005 provided a sobering backdrop for the Task Force’s report. Director of the Sinai Urban Health Institute, Steve Whitman, Ph.D., released the new data, which showed that the black-white disparity in breast cancer mortality rates in Chicago continued to grow. Through 2005, the last year for which mortality data are available for Chicago, the breast cancer mortality rate for African-American women in the city was 116% higher than that of white women, a huge increase from the 68% disparity in 2003.
While advances in mammography screening and breast cancer treatment in Chicago have benefited white women over the last 25 years, these advances have not helped reduce breast cancer mortality for African-American women. The mortality rate from breast cancer of African-American women in Chicago in 2005 was even higher than that of white women in 1980. The lack of progress for African-American women is compounded by the fact that white women have a higher incidence of breast cancer. Thus, although white women get breast cancer at a rate that is 18% higher, African-American women die from it far more often.
“These latest mortality figures support the need for immediate action, as a medical community and as a city, to reverse this unconscionable trend,” said Steve Whitman, Ph.D., Director of the Sinai Urban Health Institute, Sinai Health System. “We know for a fact that genetics and biological differences alone would only account for, at most, a small percentage of difference, so if we act on the recommendations of the Task Force, we can improve access to high quality breast cancer detection and treatment for African-American women in Chicago, and decrease, if not eliminate, this disparity.”
Grants Awarded to Community-Based Organizations for Education and Outreach
The Task Force announced two large grants to breast cancer advocacy organizations in African-American communities to conduct grassroots outreach and education efforts through funding provided by the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade, part of a total of $400,000 in grants to be awarded over the next three years. A $49,500 grant was awarded to The Amani-Trinity United Community Health Corporation, a non-profit organization affiliated with the Trinity United Church of Christ, dedicated to helping people achieve wellness, healing and peace. Amani peer health educators will canvas communities on the South Side, providing information on breast cancer health. “Mammogram navigators” will work to identify women in need of mammograms and help navigate them through the complete process of breast cancer screening.
A $50,000 grant was awarded to Sisters Embracing Life, a non-profit, volunteer cancer awareness organization founded by cancer survivors and friends in Austin in 2001 and dedicated to helping African-American women and their families obtain the latest medical information and supporting them through breast cancer treatment. With the support of this grant SEL will expand its outreach to the West Garfield Park community, holding support group meetings, providing counseling and referral services, holding monthly community workshops on breast cancer detection and treatment, conducting mammogram and screening education and delivering mammography reminders.
Breast Cancer Quality Consortium Created
The Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force announced the creation of a Breast Cancer Quality Consortium, funded through a $1 million grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The Consortium, which will be made up of representatives from Chicago health care organizations, will be dedicated to improving the quality of mammography screening and breast cancer treatment across Metropolitan Chicago. Analysts will work to identify, measure and share quality measures of mammography screening centers across Chicago. These are measures established by the American College of Radiology that have been shown to be impact breast cancer screening and treatment. A quality initiative will provide free consultations to institutions to improve breast cancer outcomes. The Task Force is inviting all metropolitan Chicago hospitals that provide breast cancer screening and treatment to voluntarily participate.
Differences in mammography quality, differences in access to timely screenings and treatment and differences in the quality of breast cancer treatment were all identified by the Task Force as important factors contributing to African-American breast cancer mortality rates in Chicago.
Task Force Advocates for the Reducing Breast Cancer Disparities Act
For the past year, the Task Force and the Chicagoland affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure have been working with Illinois lawmakers to draft and advocate for the passage of the “The Reducing Breast Cancer Disparities Act”, Illinois House Bill 5192. Recently passed by the Illinois Senate, the bill is currently under consideration by the Rules Committee until the House reconvenes for the next veto session in November.
This legislation would:
— Eliminate co-pays and deductibles for mammography screening,
— Require a patient navigation program to help women in state programs
such as FamilyCare and Medicaid access breast cancer treatment in a
more timely manner,
— Establish a patient reminder system for women receiving state
— Establish quality incentive reimbursements for facilities that meet
quality standards for mammography and increase the number of
mammography providers for underserved communities, and more.
State Representative Greg Harris and House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie were the first House sponsors. State Senators Jacqueline Collins, Iris Martinez, Heather Steans, Mattie Hunter and David Koehler are the lead supporters of the bill in the Senate.
“The study released in 2006 by Sinai’s research team was called by many a wake-up call to the medical community,” said Marie Rule Gilliam, Executive Director of the Task Force. “Today’s progress report demonstrates that we have woken up, and we will not rest until African-American women in Chicago are receiving the same quality breast cancer screening and treatment as white women.”
In October 2006, the Sinai Urban Health Institute released a groundbreaking study on alarming disparities in breast cancer mortality rates between African-American and white women in Chicago. The study found that the breast cancer mortality rate for African-American women in Chicago is 68% higher than that of white women, a disparity that cannot be explained by genetics alone. The report dramatically illustrated that while advances in mammography screening and breast cancer treatment in Chicago have benefited white women over the last 23 years, these advances have not helped reduce breast cancer mortality for African-American women. The report was a wake-up call to the entire medical community that more needs to be done to improve breast cancer awareness, access, screening and treatment. The findings were published in the October 2006 National Health Journal and the March issue of the Cancer Causes and Control.
In response to the study, on March 23, 2007, an unprecedented number of local and national cancer experts, health care providers, public health leaders and prominent breast cancer activists gathered at a historic summit to begin work on reducing the large disparity in breast cancer mortality between African-American and white women in Chicago. The event marked a turning point in broad collaboration among leaders in the health care industry in addressing health crises, nationally and locally. Today, 74 organizations and more than 100 breast cancer experts make up the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force.
Over the last two years, the Task Force has held town hall meetings and released 37 recommendations for addressing racial disparities in breast cancer mortality in a major report “Improving Quality and Reducing Disparities in Breast Cancer Mortality in Metropolitan Chicago”. The Task Force report analyzed the causes underlying three major hypotheses for explaining the breast cancer disparities in Chicago: 1) African American women receive fewer mammograms; 2) African American women receive mammograms of inferior quality; and 3) African American women have inadequate access to quality treatment once breast cancer is diagnosed. Additional outreach efforts have been conducted to improve breast health for all women in Chicago while striving to eliminate intolerable differences in breast cancer mortality rates for minority women who are losing the battle and dying at high rates — some of the highest breast cancer mortality rates across the country.
SOURCE The Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force