‘Believe!’ and stop breast cancer deaths

Special to the Gainesville Sun, February 29, 2012 by Vivian Filer
African-American women my age (three score and 10 and beyond) can probably relate as I do to Fannie Lou Hamer’s famous saying, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

Hamer, who spent many years working in the fields in Mississippi, was ready to take action to eliminate the disparities of segregation. Today, I challenge all of my sisters to use Hamer’s energy to tackle the disease of breast cancer.

Research has proven that early detection is the key to early intervention and it is the greatest measure for preventing or reducing the number of black women who are dying because of breast cancer.

Experts quote discouraging statistics that are a clear indication of the disparity between African-American women and white women. We know that white women have the highest incidence of breast cancer, yet African-American women are most likely to die from this disease.

As an African-American woman, I have heard many stories that point out the very reasons these researchers have identified. The lack of medical coverage, barriers to early detection and screening, and unequal access to improvements in cancer treatments are suspected of being the contributors in survival differences between the two groups.

Closer to home are the statistics that clearly support the lack of early intervention among African-American women.

There is a strong correlation between survival rates and regular mammograms. Unfortunately, the number of women over the age of 40 who receive mammograms is discouraging. Among women in this age group in Alachua County, during the year 2010, 30.8 percent of black women had a mammogram.

With this clearly defined need facing the community, the WellFlorida Council Inc. is seeking local churches to join in an initiative designed to address this problem.

The name of this program is “BELIEVE! Preventing Breast Cancer through Churches.” It is a community and faith-based collaboration initiated by WellFlorida. It is designed to train representatives from churches to become community educators on breast cancer prevention. The basic desire is to build on the belief that “Together, we can spread the word that breast cancer is screenable and early detection is the key.”

Below is the plan as outlined by WellFlorida. This is what churches can do:

Help teach women about simple things they can do to protect themselves against breast cancer.

Nominate a sister from your church to become trained as a community health educator.

Help to distribute information through church bulletins, websites and magazines.

Help to identify local businesses that will display educational materials.

Below is what the church representatives will do?

Be trained to become a community health educator.

Organize an educational workshop on breast cancer prevention and show women how they can check themselves for signs of breast cancer.

Distribute information about places that offer low-cost or no-cost breast cancer screening tests.

The following criteria will be used for a trained community health educator:

No health/medical education is necessary.

A high school diploma or GED.

Some public speaking and/or teaching experience (for example, Sunday school, Bible study groups, etc.).

The ability to drive.

The ability to attend an eight-hour training on a Saturday in April.

A key leader from a church ministry, women’s ministry, the parish nurse or a member of the nurse’s guild are good choices.

Each trainee will receive a $40 honorarium and each church will receive $100 for organizing educational workshops with the help of the community health educator.

Churches also will receive materials for an educational display booth about breast cancer prevention, including resources for low-cost or no-cost breast cancer screening.

If your church is in Alachua County, if you would like to help reduce breast cancer in African-American women and if you would like to nominate a member of your church to become trained as a community health educator, call Kim at 352-313-6500 ext. 127 or email kgokhale@wellflorida.dev.acceleration.net.

I would certainly like to emphasize that churches outside of Gainesville are welcome to participate.

Remember that the best health advice is always obtained from your personal physician.

Vivian Filer is a retired professor of nursing at Santa Fe College. Email your questions, with “Health Files” in the subject line, to news@gainesvilleguardian.com.

To read the published article: ‘Believe!’ and stop breast cancer

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