One in an occasional blog series on topics from Oncology Issues, the journal of the Association of Community Cancer Centers.
by Susan van der Sommen, MHA, CMPE, FACHE, ACCC Editorial Committee Chair
Due to mandates in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and revised Commission on Cancer standards, community outreach programs have become more prevalent in recent years with an enhanced mission of reaching community-dwelling consumers who do not utilize the healthcare system in a manner that is effective for achieving optimal health outcomes. ACCC-member programs play an important role in these efforts, and are actively engaged in outreach initiatives as varied as the populations they intend to reach. Here are just a few examples.
Grant Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, winner of a 2012 ACCC Innovator Award, launched a Convenient Care Mammography Program aimed at providing mammography to working women on their lunch breaks. The program removes excuses that women often make to avoid getting their annual screenings—from “I’m too busy” to “the timing is not convenient”—by providing a streamlined, time-efficient process, convenient scheduling, and even transportation!
Since 2006, St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute, a multi-site cancer program serving southern Idaho, eastern Oregon, and northern Nevada, has been developing community-based approaches to youth-based prevention education programs that address such issues as tobacco use, sun safety, and healthy lifestyle habits.
To better serve its community Klabzuba Cancer Center at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth employs two mobile health coaches with full examination facilities, as well as mammography suites to bring screening services and education to work sites and rural locations, removing barriers to care access. To provide these services, this 2013 ACCC Innovator Award winner has partnered with businesses, government agencies, and other local organizations.
The Bassett Cancer Institute with its flagship site in rural Cooperstown, New York, began a cancer screening outreach program in 2008, which in 2014 won the HANYS Community Health Improvement Award. Recognizing that the socioeconomic status, geography, and lack of effective public transportation in their eight-county region impacts the ability of patients to access preventive services, the mobile coach, which was constructed with a digital mammography and a self-contained clinical unit, travels to a variety of community-based sites, enabling staff to reach more underserved people with mammograms, clinical breast exams, Pap smears, and colorectal cancer screenings than through routine office visits.
The cover story of the May/June 2016 edition of Oncology Issues highlights Christiana Care’s Community Health Outreach and Education Program, which takes community outreach to a new level by incorporating a tailored approach designed to reach a culturally diverse population in a manner that is comfortable and welcoming.
The American Journal of Preventative Medicine notes that “cultural competence in an individual or organization implies having the capacity to function effectively within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by consumers and their communities.”
Christiana Care’s outreach and education program was designed with the inherent understanding that a “one size fits all” or “open our doors and they will come” approach will not always work—particularly with disparate populations. Their solution? Set up shop in the local farmer’s market where more than 75 culturally diverse vendors sell their products. Christina Care’s concerted effort to employ multicultural, bilingual staff and deploy the team in a non-traditional venue where they are guaranteed to reach the population is not only innovative, but also very effective. Where better to reach a population than in a place where they already come together both for work and pleasure?
According to the Institute of Medicine report, Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion, health literacy is defined as “the degree to which individuals can obtain, process, and understand the basic health information and services they need to make appropriate health decisions.” The same report notes that nearly half of all American adults—90 million people—have inadequate health literacy to navigate the healthcare system. Inequitable delivery of care and the resulting disparities affect the overall health and well-being of individuals in a manner that may ultimately result in a public health concern.
The farmer’s market outreach and education program developed by Christiana Care is a successful formula for ensuring that education and outreach occurs not only within the communities it serves, but also in a manner that speaks to patients—quite literally—in a language they can understand.