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City of Philadelphia & Komen Philadelphia Create a United Front to Change the Tide for African Americans in the War Against Breast Cancer

With Philadelphia ranked #9 in the country for having the highest rates of breast cancer mortality among African-American women, collaboration and mobilization workshop at City Hall focuses on aggressive strategies to achieve greater breast health equity among black populations.

On February 11, 2020, Susan G. Komen Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia joined forces to take aggressive action to end generations-long breast health disparities for African Americans in our community. The mobilization workshop was presented by Susan G. Komen Philadelphia and hosted by the office of Councilman At-Large Allan Domb with event support provided by City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson (District 2), Councilwoman At-Large Kendra Brooks, Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier (District 3), and Councilwoman At-Large Katherine Gilmore Richardson.

About the Event & Collaboration

Komen Philadelphia and leadership from the City of Philadelphia with critical access to and influence in the most in-need African-American neighborhoods in the city came together for a 3-hour working session aimed at creating and mobilizing a united front to take immediate, aggressive action to end deplorable breast health disparities in Philadelphia. In attendance were more than 50 activists—made up of City Council Members, their staffs and other involved members of their communities—dedicated to working with Komen Philadelphia on the mission of stopping needless African-American breast cancer deaths throughout the City and achieving breast health equity for the population. All participants took an active role during the workshop to learn, share and establish a strategic plan for opening doors for Komen Philadelphia to engage with populations “in the shadows” and bring about lifesaving change in communities they serve.

Four breast health doctors from Komen Philadelphia’s community health partnership gave participants an in-depth understanding of the dynamics making Philadelphia one of the worst cities in the country for breast cancer mortality among black women. All of the professionals have extensive, hands-on experience working with Komen Philadelphia—who each year funds approximately 850-1,000 free mammograms, 275 diagnostic services plus other services—to increase the number of free breast health screenings and follow-up care among black women, especially those living in the poorest neighborhoods of Philadelphia who traditionally present with breast cancer at late stages. In addition, participants heard from several long-time Komen Philadelphia activists— including a breast cancer survivor community ambassador—who have dedicated their involvement specifically to advancing the mission in the African-American community and offer unique experiences to provide additional insights on the barriers to care that exist. The session concluded with an “open forum” to outline strategies and tactics for city district leadership and their support teams to bring the Komen Philadelphia breast health equity mission into their communities, provide education and support hundreds of African-American women in accessing the care available to them.

Speakers included:

  • Allan Domb, Philadelphia City Councilman At-Large
  • Elaine I. Grobman, Chief Executive Officer, Susan G. Komen Philadelphia
  • Freshman City Councilwomen: Councilwoman At-Large Kendra Brooks, Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier (District 3), and Councilwoman At-Large Katherine Gilmore Richardson
  • Kenyatta Johnson, Philadelphia City Councilman (District 2)
  • Officer Rosalyn Talley, City of Philadelphia Police Department, Recruitment Instructor
  • Erika Wimms, breast cancer survivor and Komen Philadelphia community ambassador
  • Elizabeth Kaspern, Senior Vice President and Chief Retail Services Officer, TruMark Financial® Credit Union, Champion of High-Impact Fundraising for Komen Philadelphia
  • Komen Philadelphia Know Your Girls Ambassadors: Angelina Perryman, Vice President of Administration for Perryman Construction; Sherri Lee Stevens, General Manager of the Grand Ballroom Philadelphia at First District Plaza.
  • Ari Brooks, MD. Director of the Integrated Breast Center at Pennsylvania Hospital; Director of Endocrine and Oncological Surgery, Professor of Clinical Surgery and Clinical Associate of Surgery for Penn Medicine. Presentation topic: “Care Management of Breast Cancer Patients in the Current Insurance Climate”. 
  • Barry Mann, MD. Chief Academic Officer, Mainline Health; Vice Chairman of Education for the Department of Surgery and Professor of Surgery, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. Presentation topic: “Together for West Philadelphia”. 
  • Edith Mitchell, MD, MACP, FCPP.  Clinical Professor of Medicine and Medical Oncology, Department of Medical Oncology, Director of the Center to Eliminate Cancer Disparities, Associate Director of Diversity Affairs, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson. Presentation topic: “Does Research and/or Prevention Decrease Mortality Rates in Breast Cancer?”.
  • Alliric Willis, MD, FACS. Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Faculty Affairs & Faculty Development, Assistant Dean for Faculty Affairs, Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health. Presentation topic: “Urgency and Importance of Mammograms”. 

While, for more than two decades, Komen Philadelphia has been addressing breast health and breast cancer early detection needs specific to the African-American community and received as-needed financial and influencer support from various City leaders and workers, this event represents a new chapter founded on a more focused, unified effort from the City of Philadelphia. With Komen Philadelphia driving the efforts in terms of breast health resources and access to service and Councilman At-Large Domb spearheading the efforts of City leadership, the “united front” works toward a more uniform, consistent approach to closing the gap of care in Philadelphia’s African-American population.

The need and statistics

“The numbers are deplorable, and as the local leader in the fight to save lives and end breast cancer, we have a huge responsibility to work harder, be more innovative and, really, stop at nothing when it comes to ending the dynamics leading to far too many African-American deaths in our community,” said Elaine I. Grobman, CEO, Komen Philadelphia. “Thousands of lives are depending on this initiative—patients, their families and generations of African-American women far into the future. It’s no coincidence we chose to hold this program during Black History Month—because what we are setting out to do is to change the game and change history. For far too long, black women have suffered from, in essence, discrimination when it comes to surviving breast cancer. They have suffered from decades of inequality brought about by everything from poverty to lack of educational opportunities to falling through cracks in the healthcare system to generations of ingrained cultural dynamics that prevent them from getting proper care. All this stops now. It has to, and we are fully confident in our collaboration with the City to see to it.”

The need for such an aggressive, wide-and-deep- effort is clear, especially considering current statistics:

  • Philadelphia ranks number 9 on a list of U.S. metropolitan areas with the highest rates of breast cancer mortality and late-stage diagnoses among African-American women.
  • Nationwide, breast cancer mortality it approximately 40% higher for African-American women than for Caucasian women.
  • Women presenting with later breast cancer have a lower likely hood of survival or of quality of life during and after treatment. Later stage diagnoses typically bring more invasive, more intense treatment, longer recovery periods, years of follow-up treatment and a decline in quality of life.
  • Each year in Komen Philadelphia’s 15-county service area there are approximately 884 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in African Americans, 213 African-American breast cancer deaths. With the majority of these cases centralized in Philadelphia, Komen Philadelphia recognized the need to mobilize the City to do more to stop late-stage diagnoses and deaths.

“Every leader for the City of Philadelphia needs to be excited and place tremendous value on this initiative because it gives all of us a tremendous opportunity to elevate our ability to serve the communities trusting us to provide a better present and future for them,” said Philadelphia City Councilman At-Large, Allan Domb. “This isn’t just about helping a few African-American women take advantage of free mammograms. We are committing to meeting the most in-need women where they are… to entering their comfort zones and bringing the Komen Philadelphia mission to them in order to drive the very best outcomes in terms of breast cancer survival. What we are doing here is putting the wheels in motion for decreasing breast cancer deaths right now and establishing lifestyle foundations that will give generations of African Americans the best possible chance of surviving a breast cancer diagnosis.”

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