ST. LOUIS – November 3, 2011 – African American women in St. Louis die from breast cancer at a significantly higher rate than white women, a situation that Susan G. Komen for the Cure® is working to change with a $750,000 community grant aimed at ending disparities in breast cancer outcomes for African American women.
Komen for the Cure announced the three-year grant to Washington University in St. Louis, which will work with four community partners to identify and address barriers to care for African American women in the St. Louis area. In St. Louis County, breast cancer mortality rates for African American women are more than one-and-a-half times higher than in white women, at 39.7 per 100,000 and 23.2 per 100,000 respectively.
“This is a national trend and a major focus of Komen’s research and community health funding,” said Elizabeth Thompson, president of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. “Nationally, African American women are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer but almost 39 percent more likely to die of it. We simply must address this tragic imbalance in St. Louis and across the country.”
Komen already funds more than $2 million to disparities programs in Chicago and Montgomery County, Md., and has launched a major outreach program – the Circle of Promise – to provide education and awareness to the African American community. Komen has funded more than $12 million for scientific research to understand genetics and treatment issues unique to African Americans.
With the St. Louis grant, Washington University’s Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities at the Siteman Cancer Center, working with other community organizations, will develop a systematic method of identifying barriers to breast cancer care through the entire cancer care continuum. It will focus first on African American women in North St. Louis and surrounding zip codes.
Mollie Williams, Komen’s managing director of community health, said already-identified issues include a shortage of healthcare providers in North St. Louis, where the last public hospital closed in 1997 and where only 7 percent of St. Louis’ primary care providers currently practice.
“Women in the area are confronted with travel times to care, multiple visits, wait times, inconvenient hours and a lack of facilities,” she said. “These may keep some women from seeking help early, and may account for some women dropping out of treatment over time. We intend to drill down to the issues and work on solutions that will change these numbers.”
The grant announcement came as Komen’s St. Louis Affiliate published its 2011 Community Profile Report, sharing how the organization will best serve the community’s needs in its mission to save lives and end breast cancer forever.
“This national grant is funding important, life-saving work in the St. Louis area,” said Helen Chesnut, executive director of the Komen St. Louis Affiliate. “The collaborative project is an excellent example of how we can address specific community needs identified in our Community Profile Report.”
The Komen St. Louis Affiliate’s 2011 Community Profile Report outlines the community’s breast health and breast cancer needs and establishes priorities for the Affiliate’s programs, funding and support activities to meet these needs. This plan of action involves:
• Funding, educating and building awareness in the areas of greatest need
• Strengthening relationships with community partners, sponsors and supporters
• Providing information to public policymakers to focus their work
• Determining how to best use resources to make the greatest impact
Based on the community needs assessment, the Affiliate’s priorities include:
• Increasing regular breast cancer screenings and access to quality breast cancer treatment and support services for African American women in St. Louis County
• Increasing breast cancer screenings in Jefferson County, particularly targeting women ages 40+ who have never been screened
• Increasing breast cancer screenings in rural counties within the Affiliate’s 17-county service area
• Continuing efforts to increase breast cancer screening, education, treatment and support services for underserved women in the entire Affiliate service area
The Komen St. Louis Affiliate has invested more than $23 million in the fight against breast cancer. With $16 million staying in St. Louis to fund screening, treatment, education and support programs, the remaining $7 million has gone to the national Susan G. Komen for the Cure Research and Awards Program® to fund research.