October 31, 2007 | By: Katie Pratt
LEXINGTON, KY.

The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service in nine Eastern Kentucky counties joined forces to raise awareness for breast and cervical cancer screenings with a project called Team Up. 

Team Up began in 2003 as a national project identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service, Centers for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society, said Debbie Murray, associate director of Health Education through Extension Leadership. In Kentucky, partners also included the Kentucky Cancer Program, the Women’s Screening Program of the Kentucky Department of Public Health, Medicare and Medicaid.

Chuck Stamper, east regional program and development coordinator for extension, said the counties also worked closely with Tami Kedler, partnership program manager of the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service for the Mid-South Region. The project focused on the cancer burden in the South. 

“A large number of women in the South were never screened; therefore, cancer mortality rates were higher,” Murray said.

Family and consumer sciences agents from Breathitt, Elliott, Floyd, Johnson, Lawrence, Magoffin, Martin, Powell and Wolfe counties worked with local volunteers, churches and their communities to present information on the benefits of regular cancer screenings. The counties also partnered with county health departments, regional hospitals, local cancer coalitions and Kentucky State University.

Breast and cervical cancers have two of the highest cancer mortality rates in Kentucky, Stamper said. The counties were chosen because they have some of the highest breast and cervical cancer mortality rates in the state. These counties also had some of the lowest screening rates in the state and nation, he said.

According to the Kentucky Cancer Registry, breast cancer was one of the top two types of cancer that were diagnosed in each county between 2000 and 2004. It was also one of the top two types of cancer with the highest mortality rates in each county for the same time period. 
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services reported Kentucky ranks second in the nation in mortality rates for cervical cancer.

Through donations from various federal, state and local partners, Team Up received about $45,000 for the project. This funding went toward television and radio advertising and the purchase of resources. Since each county received little operational money, extension agents came up with creative, low cost ways to increase awareness for cancer screenings.

“It’s amazing what they can do,” Murray said. “It’s one of the reasons they’ve been able to increase screening rates in the area.”

Each county presented the topic through various formats, based on the most effective way to reach their audience. Murray said agents chose from a list of possible ways they could connect with their communities.

“Some agents even branched out and got information and resources about male breast cancer and colon cancer,” Stamper said.

Floyd County created a DVD to increase screening rates. Theresa Scott, Floyd County family and consumer sciences extension agent, said the movie was designed to reach the community through the more than 100 churches and nonprofits in Floyd County. It featured local cancer survivors and doctors who discussed their experiences with cancer and emphasized early detection is crucial in battling the disease. The movie also featured a local songwriter who wrote a song as a tribute to his sister who died from cancer in 2005. 

Scott said five area health care facilities partnered and made financial contributions to the production of the DVD. A local production company produced it at a discounted cost.

“Floyd County’s Team Up efforts resulted in the development of a successful cancer coalition, and it was one of the most successful partnerships I’ve ever seen,” Scott said. 

Another unique effort was in Magoffin County, which had several activities that culminated with an annual Pink Ribbon Ladies Luncheon before Mother’s Day, said Brooke Jenkins, Magoffin County family and consumer sciences extension agent.

“A lot of the leaders in the community raised awareness leading up to the event,” Jenkins said. “We also had a media campaign.”

The Magoffin County extension office also hosted a Pretty in Pink Lock In, a sleepover for teenagers that focused on women’s health education. 

Jenkins said that through a contract with a local hospital, a mobile mammography unit visited Magoffin County. A mobile mammography unit also provided services in Wolfe County.

Pam Dooley, Powell County’s family and consumer sciences extension agent, said Powell County distributed information about cancer screenings at various club meetings and on the radio. The county was also able to insert information about screenings in bank envelopes at some of the local banks. By providing information about the project during the county’s Praise Celebration, Team Up reached about 2,500 people.

Dooley said the county’s goal was to educate the public, not only about the importance of cancer screenings, but to let them know there is hope for the uninsured. Just because a person doesn’t have health insurance doesn’t mean screenings aren’t possible, Dooley said.

Because health departments receive funding to cover expenses of those without insurance, “We encouraged uninsured patients to go to the health department first because if they get diagnosed by a doctor, the health department can’t help them financially,” she said.

The program has produced results. Stamper said most of the data he has received from the counties has shown an increase in screenings. 

“The majority of the counties didn’t have cancer coalitions before the program was started,” Stamper said. “Now, cancer coalitions exist in every county.”

Murray said each county will continue to raise awareness for breast and cervical cancer screenings. The nine counties will also be given the opportunity to receive a $5,000 grant from Health Education through Extension Leadership. 

“These mini grants are available so the counties can continue their intervention in the community and keep the momentum going to strengthen the local cancer coalitions,” she said.

Contact: 

Brooke Jenkins, 606-349-3216, Pam Dooley, 606-663-6405, Chuck Stamper, 859-257-9511 ext. 237,
Debbie Murray, 859-527-8900, Theresa Scott, 606-886-2668