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  • Chicago Breast Cancer Quality Consortium

    Guest post from LaToya L. Stewart, MPH, Manager of Community Health Programs at Susan G. Komen for the Cure

    It was five years ago that a startling statistic was revealed – in Metropolitan Chicago, an African American woman’s chance of dying from breast cancer was 62 percent higher than her white counterpart.  It was then that hundreds of community leaders and activists devised a plan to tackle and eliminate this disheartening disparity.  With a $1 million grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure (and support that has since grown to $2.1 million), the Chicago Breast Cancer Quality Consortium was launched to address a critical factor to health care that has been overlooked for too long – QUALITY.  On Nov. 11, the umbrella organization of the consortium, the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force, convened for the fifth year to share their successes since embarking upon this mission.  Anne Marie Murphy, executive director of the Task Force shared, “Armed with a dedicated board and staff, innovative ideas and unparalleled enthusiasm from a diverse group of partners within and outside the health care arena, we have moved steadily toward our mission.”

    Each step taken has been WITH and FOR the community.  The Nov. 11 gathering was no different.  More than 150 nurses, navigators, physicians, community activists and community partners gathered at Advocate Christ Hospital to discuss their journey toward health equity.  Dr. Terry Mason, chief medical officer of the Cook County Health & Hospital Systems was the morning’s opening keynote speaker.  He challenged the audience to consider the role of historical social constructs in the creation of health disparities in our country.  With that framework, he offered a simple but tall order: develop strategies to eliminate disparities that not only address genetic factors but also include policies necessary to affect health outcomes in our country.

    Murphy reported findings from an evaluation of the quality of screening and treatment at 53 mammography clinics and hospitals representing 46 percent of hospitals providing mammography services in the area and 42 percent providing cancer treatment to at least five breast cancer patients per year.  While the majority of the participating hospitals were able to demonstrate that they are meeting treatment standards based on national guidelines, there are a few that aren’t able to demonstrate meeting the standards of care.  Those standards of care are to provide treatment quickly and provide the appropriate treatment protocol.

    The results for mammography were vastly different, with the majority of the participating hospitals and clinics saying they could not demonstrate that they are meeting the quality standards in mammography.  Only 30 percent of the hospitals could demonstrate that they were finding cancers when they are very small.  More than 60 percent couldn’t demonstrate that abnormal screenings were followed up with critical diagnostic imaging.  There are limitations to the data and more analysis is needed, but the numbers were sobering.

    After lunch, Julie Hamos, Director, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, made a monumental announcement.  Beginning in January 2012, Medicaid reimbursement rates for screening will increase across the state of Illinois if providers participate in the quality improvement initiative.  Ms. Hamos told the group that this increased Medicaid reimbursement is an effort to get providers to focus on quality.  With 1,400 screening providers in the state, it is also a significant opportunity for growth and improvement in breast health care for Illinois.

    As the day ended, I sat in on a session called You Have Cancer, Please Hold.  This focused on key communication points with patients from screening to diagnosis, with real-world suggestions on how to improve communication with patients.

    What an amazing event!  I’ve had the privilege of serving as Komen’s program officer for this initiative since 2009.  This update was truly a reminder of the important work that is being done to save lives one clinic at a time…and now an entire state!

    Related articles:
    State Takes Major Steps Towards Improving Mammography Quality While Increasing Medicaid Mammography Reimbursement

  • On the Passing of Evelyn Lauder, founder of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

    The entire Komen community mourns the passing of Evelyn H. Lauder, a tireless fellow torch-bearer and a true pioneer in the fight to end breast cancer. For so many years, Mrs. Lauder’s Breast Cancer Research Foundation has championed important and meaningful research in the battle against the disease. Her valiant and courageous crusade was the cause of her lifetime. Evelyn Lauder leaves an inimitable  legacy of hope and progress in this war that all of us will continue to fight so vigorously and with such determination.

  • Strategic Meeting for Breast Cancer Advocacy in the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil

    On October 18, 2011, Susan G. Komen for the Cure hosted a strategic meeting in the State of Sao Paulo that brought together community advocates to address prevailing breast cancer challenges in the region.

    The roundtable included experts, healthcare professionals, and NGO and government representatives from the state. This is the first of several meetings focused on identifying and reducing the challenges that result in the lack of proper access to prevention and treatment services for citizens at all levels of the healthcare system. Recently, Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s President announced a commitment of R$4.5 billion reais (roughly $2.8 billion dollars) to the improvement of the country’s health services. Interestingly, the commitment was not in support of all chronic diseases, but specifically towards the fight against cancer. Needless to say, the subject is very timely as cancer advocates throughout the country begin to mobilize and strategize.

    Many people don’t realize, but Brazil is an expansive country with communities and regions that vastly differ from its north to south tips. As Dr. Carlos Ruiz, President of the Brazilian Mastology Society aptly put it, “this is the Brazil of many Brazils”. In a country that faces on average 50,000 new cases of breast cancer each year, unfortunately in states like Sao Paulo women still struggle to get adequate preventive and treatment services. Most unfortunate is the fact that mortality rates continue to grow.

    While it may be easy to attribute some of these statistics to less than adequate healthcare services, the roundtable focused on what can be done now. Participants suggested that mammography in Brazil is available for the most part. However, much education and training is still very much needed to ensure the accuracy and reliability of exams. Additionally, the diagnosis and treatment cycle is often delayed creating a less than favorable situation for women in need of immediate care. Over the next few months, the Global Initiative Team will identify specific focus areas for action teams in the state of Sao Paulo. A follow-up meeting is expected to take place in early 2012.

    Since 2007, the Global Initiative for Breast Cancer Awareness has been active in Brazil providing grants to strengthen awareness programs at the community level. In addition to community grants, advocacy meetings such as this one have become more and more important in linking Komen to the country’s cancer network. Stay tuned.

    Read more about our work in South America here.

  • 2011 Honoring the Promise Recap

    Honoring the PromiseCelebrities, government leaders, scientists, advocates and breast cancer leaders gathered in glorious surroundings in Washington for Susan G. Komen for the Cure’’s second annual Honoring the Promise gala, which raises funds for breast cancer research and programs while honoring the leaders of the breast cancer movement.

    Over 1,000 people filled the Eisenhower Theatre inside the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for a night of uplifting performances and moving speeches that served to remind those of the importance in continuing their support in the fight against breast cancer.

    NBC TODAY Show co-host and breast cancer survivor Hoda Kotb emceed the program which featured performances by singer Natasha Bedingfield —singing acoustic versions of her hit songs “Pocket Full of Sunshine” and “Unwritten” — Grammy Award-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari, opera singer Denyce Graves-Montgomery, aerial artist Amanda Topaz and the vocal jazz ensemble Afro Blue from Howard University.

    Nancy G. Brinker at the podiumRounding out the program were Hollywood stars Kerry Washington–wearing a lady-like pink and black Marc Jacobs dress– Donald Faison and fiancé CaCee Cobb, Jennifer Beals and breast cancer survivor Vanessa Bell Calloway. They joined friends of Komen from inside the Beltway – MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, FedEx Corporation’s Gina Adams, Danaher Corporation’s William H. King and philanthropist Annie Totah.

    Co-founded by Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein and held in the Eisenhower Center for the Performing Arts at the Kennedy Center, the Honoring the Promise event included a Lifetime Achievement Award to former First Lady Betty Ford, whose courage in disclosing her breast cancer diagnosis in 1974 opened the national conversation about the leading cancer killer of women worldwide.  Komen founder and CEO Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker presented the award to Mrs. Ford’s daughter, Susan Bales.

    In September 1974, a wife and mother confronted four words that had shattered women’s lives for decades:  ‘I have breast cancer.’” Ford Bales began her tear-filled speech. “That woman was my mom; That woman was First Lady of the United States;  That woman was Betty Ford. Komen presented Awards of Distinction in four additional categories.

      • For Scientific and Medical achievement -– Charles M. Perou, Ph.D., head of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Lineberger Cancer Center and recognized for his work identifying subtypes of breast cancer;
      • For Advocacy -  Ellen V. Sigal, Ph.D. for her work to accelerate cancer research and public policy, as chair and founder of the Friends of Cancer research organization in D.C.;
      • For Community – Sandra M. Swain, M.D., medical director of the Washington Cancer Institute, and project director of the Breaking Down Barriers program to reach medically underserved women in the National Capitol Area, and
      • Global Leadership – Sarah Brown, wife of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for her work for women and children.

    The collective achievements of these honorees have significantly improved our understanding of breast cancer, identified new treatments, and built a global community looking out for the needs of women and men facing breast cancer,” Brinker said. Brinker founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 1982, after promising her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, that she would do everything in her power to end the disease.

    Since then, Komen has grown to become the largest breast cancer organization, funding more research than any other breast cancer non-profit ($685 million to date), and another $1.3 billion to community outreach programs. This includes $20 million to programs in the National Capital Area.

    We’’d like to thank everyone who made tonight’s event a success, starting with David Rubenstein and his wife Alice for serving as founding chairs for the event alongside honorary chairs the Ambassador of the State of Kuwait and Mrs. Salem Al-Sabah, Senator Scott Brown and Gail Huff, Representative John Dingell, the Honorable and Mrs. John Engler and Senator Joseph Lieberman.

    Andrea Mitchell, Hoda Kotb, Jennifer Griffin, and Deborah Charles
    From L to R: Andrea Mitchell, Hoda Kotb, Jennifer Griffin, and Deborah Charles

    The evening gala was co-chaired by Jane and Spencer Abraham, Deborah Dingell, Ginger and Stuart Pape, Hadassah Lieberman, Marlene and Fred Malek, Susanna and Jack Quinn, Anne and John D. Raffaelli, Vanessa and Thomas Reed, Vicki and Roger Sant, Linda and Acie Vickers and Young Professionals Chairs John Pearson III, Kiki Ryan and Ashley Taylor.

    A special reception before the gala honored women Kotb with the Rebecca Lipkin Award of Media Distinction, named for the ABC News producer who died of breast cancer in 2009. Read our recap of the Women In Media event here and Hoda Kotb’s award here.

    More pictures to come soon!

  • 2011 Honoring the Promise Gala – Women In Media

    Hoda KotbYesterday was our Honoring the Promise gala in Washington, D.C., where Susan G. Komen honors the people who have made huge impacts on breast cancer.  It’s a great and meaningful evening, with awards being presented to scientists, community advocates, survivors and global dignitaries who have advanced the cause of women’s health, specifically to spread awareness or make an impact for women and men facing this disease.  We’ll have more on the full program in a later blog but we wanted to take a minute to tell you about a special event that we’ve held for the last two years, honoring women in media that have shared their stories and motivated other women to take action for their breast health.

    The award itself has a bittersweet story behind it.  The Rebecca Lipkin Women of Media Distinction Award is named in memory of Rebecca Lipkin, a television producer for ABC News and Al-Jazeera who was well-known and well-loved. She died of inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) in 2009, just 49 years old.  When she was diagnosed with IBC (which is a very rare but aggressive form of breast cancer), she set out to tell others about it. Her family picked up that ball after her death, establishing the Rebecca Lipkin Fund in conjunction with Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  The family also wanted to honor the female journalists/breast cancer survivors who are making an impact on breast cancer awareness, and established the Media Distinction Award in 2010.

    Last night, survivor Jennifer Griffin of Fox News presented the 2011 Media Distinction Award to Hoda Kotb of NBC’s TODAY show. Hoda was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2007.  At first, she didn’t want to discuss it publicly, but did reveal it in an interview with Ann Curry, saying “I’m hoping that me telling about my journey and the kind of hell I went through will help somebody at home who thinks ‘Oh God, I’m by myself’ or ‘Oh no, there’s just me.’ Because it’s not just you. It’s never just you. You know, there’s a whole bunch of us out there.”

    Hoda has shared her story in newscasts, on the lecture circuit and with frequent appearances at Susan G. Komen for the Cure Races around the country.  We were just delighted to honor her at this ceremony tonight. We all owe Hoda our thanks for all that she has done to let women know they are indeed not alone – they’re part of a global family.

    A special thanks, too, to Jennifer Griffin and all the members of the Women in Media committee:

    • Deborah Charles of Reuters
    • Jill Dougherty from CNN
    • Robin Roberts from ABC
    • Andrea Roane of WUSA TV, Washington, DC
    • Laura Ingraham of “The Laura Ingraham Show”And
    • Andrea Mitchell and Anne Thompson from NBC

    A few pictures from the event are in the slideshow below.