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Susan G. Komen® California Affiliates Launch Statewide Initiative Focusing on African American Women's Breast Health

African American Women Nationwide 41 Percent More Likely than Caucasian Women to Die from Breast Cancer; in Los Angeles, an Astonishing 70 Percent

Los Angeles, Calif. (June 11, 2014) —Today, the seven Susan G. Komen Affiliates in California joined together to announce an intensive, two-year, statewide initiative focusing on African American women’s breast health. During a news conference with medical, community and media leaders, it was announced that Komen’s California Affiliates will collaborate on a best practice model to address breast cancer disparities at both the system and individual levels, specifically focusing on African American women who are rarely or never screened, low-income, uninsured or recipients of Medi-Cal.

Across the nation, white women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but African American women are 41 percent more likely to die from breast cancer. And in Los Angeles, the mortality rate is an astonishing 70 percent higher. For women without health coverage, the burden is even greater – uninsured women have a 30 to 50 percent increased risk of dying from breast cancer than those with insurance.

This Komen initiative in California seeks to serve diverse, underserved communities with high breast cancer mortality rates by providing community organization and direct education, as well as enabling screening and navigation services, and targeted marketing and awareness.

“All women and men, regardless of race, ethnicity, place of residence or socio-economic status, should be empowered to take personal action and access appropriate breast health services. However, many women still face barriers to screening, diagnosis and treatment services,” said Judith A. Salerno, M.D., M.S., Susan G. Komen President and CEO, who spoke at the press conference in Culver City. “Through innovative ideas and collaboration, Komen’s California Affiliates will make a significant impact on the lives of women and men across the state, and ultimately, save lives.”

This statewide initiative, a first for Komen, began as a successful pilot program in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, both of which were funded through grants from the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation. In his remarks at the press conference, Komen Los County Affiliate Executive Director Mark Pilon said, “This alarming trend of higher mortality in the African American community, the likely result of compounding social, cultural, financial and geographic barriers, is simply unacceptable in light of the overall improvement in breast cancer mortality rates since the 1990s. We knew we needed to stand together to change this disparity. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation for their continued and longstanding partnership with Komen, and for their recognition of the need for continued progress.”

“We are so pleased to be part of an effort that will proactively work to reach women in their communities with valuable information about breast health awareness,” said Pam Kehaly, President of Anthem Blue Cross/West Region & Senior Vice President of Specialty Businesses. “We know that when we can arm women with health information and help improve access for screenings and diagnostic services we empower women to take control of their health.” 

When found in its earliest stages, before is has spread beyond the breast, breast cancer in the United States has a five-year relative survival rate of 99 percent. But a woman has to have access and utilize the appropriate screening tests in order to find breast cancer early – that’s what this initiative is all about. Komen’s seven California Affiliates will work together to address breast cancer disparities through efforts with both health care systems and individuals, specifically targeting African American women who are rarely or never screened, low-income and uninsured/underinsured women, as well as recipients of Medi-Cal. The initiative’s goal is to help 2,000 rarely or never-screened African American women to find a medical home, and to motivate them to seek regular breast cancer screenings moving forward.

Support for the Susan G. Komen® Circle of Promise California Initiative is made possible in part by a grant from the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation, L.L.C.