The Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization gathered philanthropic, civic, medical and business leaders in Washington last week to formally launch a $27 million, 10-city initiative to reduce breast cancer death rates among African-American women.
“African-American women are almost 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women in the U.S. and in some cities, that number is as high as 74 percent,” said Komen President and CEO Dr. Judith A. Salerno.
“That makes this a public health crisis that must be addressed immediately. We are deeply appreciative of friends and partners who are working with us to do so.”
Salerno thanked the Fund II Foundation and its president Robert F. Smith for the $27 million grant that made the Komen African-American Health Equity Initiative possible.
“This investment in women’s health will truly save lives,” Salerno said.
Komen’s African-American Health Equity Initiative initially targets 10 U.S. cities where mortality rates and late-stage diagnosis of African-American women are highest. The goal: to reduce the mortality gap by 25 percent within five years of beginning work in each city. The Initiative will expand across the country.
The initial targeted cities for the African-American Health Equity Initiative are Memphis, Tenn., St. Louis, Mo., Dallas, Los Angeles, Virginia Beach, Va., Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.
The African-American Health Equity Initiative complements the work that Komen and its network of 100 U.S. Affiliates already do to remove barriers to cancer care. Komen and Komen Affiliates support thousands of local programs that provide screenings, treatment assistance, emergency financial aid, medical supplies and living expense for underserved individuals.
“In California, we have already begun addressing this inequity, not just in Los Angeles, but throughout the state,” explained Mark Pilon, executive director of Susan G. Komen® Los Angeles County.
“The California Circle of Promise is a statewide initiative addressing breast cancer disparities among African Americans at the system, community, and individual levels. Launched by the seven California affiliates of Susan G. Komen, the initiative serves the unique needs of African American women, 40 and above, who are rarely or never screened for breast cancer and are also low-income, uninsured or recipients of Medi-Cal, in order to provide access to quality breast health care services,” he added.
“The goal of the initiative is to empower African American women with the knowledge and resources to enter and seamlessly move through a quality, culturally competent and coordinated system of breast health care. In some instances, this means bringing the services directly to the community in the form of a mobile breast cancer screening event and/or grass roots health education programs.”
Lewis-Hall stressed the importance of African-American participation in clinical trials. “Why do more of us need to get involved in clinical trials of potential new breast cancer treatments? Because we have so many great scientific opportunities right now and so many questions. These questions will only be answered for us, by us,” she said.
The formal launch of the African-American Health Equity Initiative came just 24 hours after Komen announced a broader 10-year plan to reduce current U.S. breast cancer deaths by 50 percent in 10 years. Komen’s “Bold Goal” strategy focuses on health equity for all medically underserved individuals, and an enhanced focus on research into aggressive and metastatic breast cancer.
The organization has invested more than $2 billion over 34 years for these programs aimed at uninsured, underinsured, and medically vulnerable populations.
“We will never waver from our commitment to remove barriers of language, geography, economics or culture for all people facing this disease. Every woman or man must be able to access and receive high-quality breast health and breast cancer care, and be supported through their treatment and into survivorship,” Salerno said.