West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative

Increasing early-stage diagnoses and breast cancer survival in our City’s most impoverished neighborhood

In 2014, the Obama administration designated a two-square-mile zone in West Philadelphia as the first of five Promise Zone neighborhoods in the U.S. Called out for its deep and persistent poverty, the Philadelphia Promise Zone is now in the middle of a ten-year initiative headed by the federal and local governments along with auxiliary groups focused on creating jobs, increasing economic activity, improving education opportunities and reducing violent crime.

Early on, Susan G. Komen® Philadelphia noticed a significant piece of the puzzle of future prosperity was missing from the Promise Zone vision. We asked ourselves: What good is all this work to create jobs and educational opportunities if the fabric of life in the Promise Zone are no longer alive or too sick to leverage them?

Based our three decades in leading the fight to end breast cancer, we knew unequivocally that if the mothers and other women in the Promise Zone continued to die at alarming rates breast cancer, all other efforts would be for naught. Someone needed to address the health and wellbeing of women in the zone as well as immediately surrounding neighborhoods also falling victim to the same dynamics. And so, we began to formulate a strategy to take on—to, in every sense, wage war—against breast cancer in this extremely impoverished zone. The ultimate goals of the federal Promise Zone initiative and Komen Philadelphia’s West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative go hand in hand: increasing the number of early-stage breast cancer diagnosis and improving breast cancer survival rates for today’s and future generations.

Currently, Komen Philadelphia has everyone and every resource in place—ready, willing and able—to make this happen from border to border in an approximate two-mile zone of focus for our West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative: the navigators specialized in this mission, the breast cancer care teams, equipment and other resources of our hospital partners, the Komen Philadelphia staff and the community influencers and other vital connections for reaching these women. We are now at a point for which funding is critical so we can both begin and expand our work—and do so at accelerated rates.



To implement a viable, lifesaving, generations-long, ongoing solution that, like other Promise Zone initiatives will break the cycle of poverty and—unlike federal Promise Zone focus—will break the cycle of fear, helplessness, hopelessness, apathy and deaths caused by breast cancer.

The work of our West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative IS NOT:

  • Focused on just providing free mammograms
  • Solely an educational and awareness effort
  • A breast cancer research initiative
  • A band-aid solution to save lives

Instead, the work of our West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative IS:

  • An A-to-Z empowerment initiative
  • Focused on providing a continuum of breast health/breast cancer care for women of all age. Starting with ensuring proper early detection followed by whatever is needed, from further diagnostics to treatment to follow-up care to years, if necessary, of making sure that same woman stays one step ahead of her breast cancer
  • Developed to meet women “where they’re at,” knowledgeably addressing their barriers and holding their hands every step of the way More than just a “band-aid” solution, our work in these key West Philadelphia neighborhoods is about creating opportunity for the people living there—opportunity to control of a lifetime of breast health.

Simply put, from day one, Komen Philadelphia has firmly stood by the belief that where you live should not determine if you live. Our promise at the end of our work is equality of care for every man and woman when it comes to surviving breast cancer.



According to Komen Scientific Advisors: approximately 30% of breast cancer deaths could be avoided without a single new discovery—that is, even without new research, these deaths could be prevented by ensuring all people have access to… and DO access and receive… the standard of breast health care that currently exists.

In other words, even without new research and breakthroughs, we could eliminate 30% of deaths by pursuing the mission of the Komen Philadelphia West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative —by connecting women with the early detection, diagnostic, treatment and follow-up services of Komen Philadelphia hospital partners that are virtually within walking distance of women living in the most in-need neighborhoods of West Philadelphia.



The West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative zone is roughly two square miles located in West Philadelphia. It is bounded by the Schuylkill River to the east, Girard Avenue to the north, 48th Street to the west, and Sansom Street to the south.

Population: 35,315 residents

Overall poverty rate: 50.78%, nearly double the rate of the City of Philadelphia (26.9%)

Health disparities: There are approximately 10,590 uninsured adults in this zone. This number is higher than the total population of uninsured adults in the entirety of Philadelphia.

In addition, the Philadelphia metro area overall ranks #9 in the U.S. for having the highest rates of late-stage breast cancer diagnoses and deaths.

What this means. Studies show undeniably that individuals and families with no or inadequate insurance are much less likely to seek preventative services or other health care until they experience serious injury or symptoms.

In the case of breast cancer—as with so many other disease and health issues—reaching this stage is too often too late. That is, women presenting with stage 3, stage 4 or even sometimes stage 2 breast cancer have a lower likely hood of survival, or of quality of life during and after treatment. The later the stage, the more invasive, more intense the treatment needs to be and simply stated, the lower the survival rate. Even if a woman does survive she is frequently looking at long recovery periods, years of follow-up treatment and a decline in quality of life.

On the contrary, the more women we can mobilize for regular, lifelong early detection practices, the more we can increase survival and quality of life—the ability to live a longer, productive life. Equally as critical is to never leave a woman alone with a “scare” or breast cancer diagnosis, the continuum of the current breast cancer standard of care must be accessible and utilize for all women. Lastly, the ways in which we do this must instill “passed down” quality—that is, they must become such a way of life that the tier-one women we reach nurture their children to remain loyal to the same practices. These are the visions of Komen Philadelphia’s West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative .



Grants/donations supporting the West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative are  made to Komen Philadelphia then distributed to our community health partners that operate within the zone:

  • Jefferson Health
  • Penn Medicine
  • Additional partners under discussion

Funds distribution is determined by Komen Philadelphia’s grant review committee, CEO and director of grants and public policy, all of whom have an in-depth knowledge of each partner’s capabilities. In addition, this group will maintain a continual program of West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative performance assessment to help ensure our partners are maximizing every dollar to advance the mission and, ultimately, save lives.

Key services/needs to supported the West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative include :

  • Hiring no fewer than 2 navigators dedicated to its work
  • Support of hospital partner services as needed specifically for West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative work, including:
    • Mammography: service, reading and results reporting
    • Diagnostics: services, reading and results reporting
    • Treatment support: from surgery to chemotherapy
    • Transportation costs
  • Supplementary patient support
    • Transportation
    • Interpretation/translation services
  • Community outreach/educational events



Ongoing funding is needed for us to continue and expand the work of our West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative. If your company or you as an individual would like to learn more about becoming a Champion of the West Philadelphia Breast Health Collaborative through a donation or grant, please contact Elaine at 215-238-8900 or Elaine@KomenPhiladelphia.org.


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