by Chelsea Balzer
Screening Saves Lives The Charles Drew Health Center’s
new Cervical Cancer Screening Program.
ou know when you’re talking to someone who really cares about others. Maybe they don’t wear it on their sleeve, but you can feel their passion. They want to be of service. That’s the sense you get about the staff at the Charles Drew Health Center, who have been providing healthcare to low-income families in Omaha since 1983. And that feeling that these people care, and that they will take care of you during an intimidating process, has saved lives by helping women overcome the apprehension surrounding cervical exams.
“What’s most effective is the one-on-one approach.” -Leah Margolis
“I’ve talked to women who had gotten the mailing, gotten the phone call, who have said: ‘It wasn’t until I actually talked to you that I was encouraged to make the appointment,’” says Leah Margolis, a community health navigator with the program. “What’s most effective is the one-onone approach.” The program, made possible by a grant from the BD Foundation, is a multi-faceted strategy to increase awareness about cervical cancer and to encourage regular screening for women in the Omaha community. The American Cancer Society estimates that 12,300 cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in 2013 and that over 4,000 of those women died from the disease, which can be prevented with early detection. That’s where CDHC comes in.
The effort includes a grassroots public education campaign, extensive outreach efforts, and assistance for uninsured patients. “We’re not, per se, a free clinic, but we’ll never turn anyone away. We have insurance enrollment services and, of course, a sliding-scale fee.” The CDHC helps uninsured women cover the cost of an exam in two ways: the Every Woman Matters program geared toward women ages 40 to 69 and the State Pap Program for women 21 to 39. Margolis understands that it isn’t always about money, though, and that there are many reasons women don’t get screened regularly. “A cervical cancer screening is invasive, let’s be honest. I have one next month and I’m nervous. So, we’re normalizing that for women, and we’re looking beyond what you would think of as ‘normal’ barriers—transportation, time, or finances. We definitely want to acknowledge those, but we’re looking deeper and providing a safe space for women.” Margolis and the CDHC recently hosted their first public event for the cause, providing free manipedis as well as snacks to guests. Their next event of its kind will be held June 29. (In April, they hosted their first “Lunch and Learn”). The events aren’t the only incentive for getting involved. Every woman who comes in for a pap smear receives a $15 gift card. The Cervical Cancer Screening Program is about more than getting women signed up for an exam; it’s about teaching women that they’ve got someone in their corner. “It’s not about hurry up and get screened. It’s: ‘Get screened, and what else can we do for you?’”
8 HerFamily • May 2015
May 2015 HerFamily