To expand access to cancer screenings for underserved residents of Central, Southside and Southwest Virginia, UVA Cancer Center is establishing partnerships with community health centers serving those regions.
One partnership is with Central Virginia Health Services and Tri-Area Community Health and a second is with Blue Ridge Medical Center. Both partnerships are supported by $500,000 grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve equity in cancer screenings. The three health centers serve all patients, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. and nearly 600,000 people die from the disease each year, according to the federal health agency. The agency notes significant disparities remain in cancer screenings and follow-up care based on patients’ income, health insurance and race or ethnicity.
The grants are designed to support President Biden’s "cancer moonshot" initiative, which includes closing gaps in cancer screenings among its goals.
The partnerships will have three core elements:
- Provide easier access to breast and colorectal cancer screenings.
- Raise awareness of cancer screenings.
- Share best practices for improving screening rates.
Patient navigators will assist patients in accessing and completing screenings, and with programs that provide free colorectal cancer screenings to uninsured patients, similar to a previous collaboration between UVA and Central Virginia Health Services.
"It was a major success helping hundreds of patients in our communities," Dr. Randall Bashore, clinical director for Central Virginia Health Services, said. "I’m excited that we now have the opportunity to expand on that experience working with UVA and Tri-Area Community Health to address both colon and breast cancer screening."
A UVA Cancer Center outreach specialist also will work with community organizations to raise awareness of the benefits of getting screened for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer, according to Rick Shinn, CEO of Blue Ridge Medical Center. "We want to make sure everyone in our service area has access to care, and this grant will expand our services to people who otherwise would not be able to get screened."
Finally, UVA Cancer Center will bring together health centers from across the state through the Virginia Health Center Cancer Screening Consortium to work on improving cancer screening rates and sharing best practices.
"We look forward to collaborating with, and learning from, other health centers across the commonwealth," James Werth Jr., CEO of Tri-Area Community Health, said. "We appreciate the opportunity to partner with the UVA Cancer Center and their willingness to help health centers like us help as many people as possible."
Ensuring equity in access to cancer care and finding new ways to detect, treat and prevent cancer are primary missions of UVA Cancer Center, which is one of only 53 cancer centers in the country designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. UVA Health Cancer Center is the only such center in Virginia.
"Having more Virginians up to date on their cancer screenings is vital to saving lives," said Wendy Cohn, associate director of UVA Cancer Center’s Community Outreach and Engagement. "We’re proud to work alongside our community partners to prevent cancer and cancer-related deaths."