Rural women's health project a finalist for national award
Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 4:29 p.m.
The Gainesville Rural Women's Health Project is a finalist in the National Rural Health Award Competition for its efforts to improve breast cancer screening and prevention for Hispanic women in North Central Florida.
The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in North Carolina, which is focused on improving the health of poor people in rural areas, is sponsoring the inaugural prize. It selected four finalists from around the country out of 200 submissions from organizations with community-based health programs.
The Gainesville Rural Women's Health Project's program, called Creando Nuestra Salud, or Creating Our Health, was established in 1995 and partners with a farmworker women's organization in Volusia County called Alianza de Mujeres Activas, or Active Women's Alliance.
The Rural Women's Health Project has trained 250 health workers and educated about 2,500 Hispanic immigrant women about early breast cancer detection in Alachua, Levy, Putnam, Marion, Volusia, Lake and Orange counties, said Robin Lewy, the director of development for the Rural Women's Health Project.
Lewy added that even though Hispanic women in the U.S. have a lower incidence of breast cancer — one in 11, compared with one in eight among Caucasian women — they generally have worse outcomes because they are diagnosed later than their peers.
Furthermore, 67 percent of the Hispanic women in North Central Florida don't have health insurance, which impedes their ability to get screened for cancer, Lewy said.
"If we can teach women to recognize irregularities on their own, and that early, detection will make a difference," she said.
The program places lay health workers in the community who follow women's care as needed. "In our community, women are wonderful at focusing on family and work, but they kind of put themselves last," Lewy said, adding that the program puts women's health first.
The Rural Women's Health Project was established in 1991 and is based in Gainesville. It has several outreach programs, including one focusing on domestic violence, HIV/AIDs and family planning.
Allen Smart, director of the health care division of Charitable Trust, said, "Rural Women's Health Project has gone far beyond the normal translation services to reach Latinas in rural areas about their health. North Carolina has the sixth fastest growing Latino population in the country, and we are interested in new approaches."
Smart explained that specifically, the Gainesville group's use of fotonovellas, or stories illustrated with photos, and lay health workers caught his attention.
On Friday, the finalists will present their program and ideas about addressing health issues in rural areas to 100 stakeholders in the health care community in North Carolina. The other finalists include groups from North Carolina, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. The event will take place at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. The winner will receive a $25,000 prize.
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