PITTSBURG, Kan. — Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas (CHCSEK) is the recipient of a $500,000 federal grant to facilitate access to life-saving cancer screenings and early detection services, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday.
CHCSEK is one of 11 community health centers funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration to receive part of a total of more than $5 million to facilitate such services for underserved populations, according to HHS.
“These first-of-their-kind partnerships are bringing health centers together with National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Centers,” HHS said in a press release. “Today’s announcement advances President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot goals, which aim to close the cancer screening gap, decrease the impact of preventable cancers, and support patients and caregivers.”
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States, with nearly 600,000 deaths annually, the release noted.
“Tools to fight and prevent cancer should be in reach for everyone, but, too often, that’s not the case. With so many people having missed preventive care visits and cancer screenings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we must expand access to life-saving care,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Today’s action takes us a step closer to that goal. With this move, health centers can work to close disparity gaps, delivering critical services to underserved communities in need.”
Significant disparities continue to exist in screening and follow-up care after an abnormal cancer screening test result, based on an individual’s income, insurance status, and race or ethnicity, according to the release. These cancers can be prevented or detected early through appropriate screening and timely follow-up care.
“Getting life-saving cancer screenings and treatment should not depend on where you live or what you can afford to pay,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “Today’s investment helps to advance our goal of ensuring that individuals from historically underserved communities have the same opportunities to benefit from the tools we have to detect, diagnose, and treat cancer. We welcome the opportunity to partner with National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Centers to expand access to these critical services.”
The grant awards announced Friday focus on increasing equitable access to cancer screening for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer. Health centers will conduct patient outreach in underserved communities to promote early detection of cancer, connect patients to screening services, and provide hands-on assistance with accessing high quality cancer care and treatment as needed.
The health centers receiving Accelerating Cancer Screening awards must work with NCI-Designated Cancer Centers, which will deploy their outreach specialists and patient navigators in the health center’s service area. Example activities may include care coordination; patient engagement and activation; enhancing virtual care capabilities; tracking patient screening, referrals, and follow-up; enhancing health IT workflows; and workforce engagement, training, and recruitment. NCI-Designated Cancer Centers are characterized by scientific excellence and the capability to integrate a diversity of research approaches to focus on the problem of cancer, the release said.
“This partnership between NCI-Designated Cancer Centers and HRSA’s health centers will bring to bear the significant expertise of the cancer centers in engaging the communities they serve and will help provide underserved and rural patients access to follow-up care, including screening and cutting-edge clinical trials,” said NCI Acting Director Dr. Doug Lowy. “This landmark interagency collaboration represents the kind of innovative partnerships that will further advance the Cancer Moonshot and end cancer as we know it.”
President Biden has set goals of cutting the death rate from cancer by at least 50 percent nationwide over the next 25 years and improving the experience of people and their families living with and surviving cancer, according to the release. HHS’ department-wide engagement strategy focuses on making this year the “Year of Screening and Prevention,” aiming to identify barriers and solutions to increase access to early cancer detection and preventive health.
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