Background and Context:
A 28 year comprehensive cancer screening program at Audrain Medical Center in rural Mexico Mo. USA, provides services to 2500 women annually from 25 states of the nation. Over 650 early stage cancers have been diagnosed during the life of the program. A large disparity gap was identified with only 3 documented African American women seeking preventative care in the cancer screening program.
Sisters Hand in Hand proposed that we reach underserved African American women in their places of worship to understand culture barriers, fears, and begin building trusting relationships.
African American women leaders in the faith community were identified and a focus group of 9 women from 3 African American churches was developed. A common mission blossomed connecting underserved women with education and cancer screening services. The women were asked ways to best reach women in their community. Beauty Shops, church services and Juneteenth celebrations were identified to best target outreach activities. Cancer center staff served as a liaison between the faith community and the cancer screening program, offering support, education, and guidance, while the focus group women took ownership of community outreach activities.
Support from key African American stakeholders led to buy-in from the general population of the faith community forging a trusting bond between the community and the cancer screening program.
Outcomes/What was learned:
The number of African American women utilizing comprehensive cancer screening services grew from 3 to 187 during the outreach program. Culturally, African American women do not share their personal stories, many fear cancer yet do not talk about it. Trust of the health care system was lacking, but due to the one on one relationship building, reaching women in their place of comfort and faith, the barriers are lowering, communication increasing and screening rates increasing.