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St. Joe’s Cancer Center, Committed to our Community

St. Joseph Medical Center is committed to cancer prevention, screening, early detection, and the well-being of the residents of our greater community. Staff participates in community outreach and education activities, and St. Joe’s sponsors annual prostate cancer screenings, breast cancer screenings, and oral cancer screenings, with a focused invitation to the underserved and uninsured. Many cancer screening and outreach activities are made possible by the generous contribution of community benefactors.

The Berks County Health Collaborative Community Health Needs Assessment, published in May 2016, identified needs, in prioritized order of the community, as Access to Care, Obesity, Chronic Illness, and Behavioral/Mental Health. The research findings indicated health disparities within certain populations, including low income/poor residents, older residents, and minorities, specifically Latinos. Residents’ access to care is challenged by insufficient number of bi-lingual providers, (under or un) insurance status, lack of transportation to medical appointments, and financial hardship. St. Joe’s Cancer Center, under the direction of the hospital Cancer Committee, has recruited staff, including English and Spanish-speaking patient navigators and financial counselors, and developed programs and provided resources, such as the SJMC Better Breast Health Initiative to help address health disparities and access issues.

With the support of the Susan G. Komen – Philadelphia, Susan G. Komen- National, and the American Cancer Society over the past 4 years (2013-2017), St. Joseph Medical Center was awarded almost $500,000 toward building the SJMC Better Breast Health Initiative. The Better Breast Health Initiative was developed to promote early detection of breast cancer in un/under insured and medically underserved women through targeted community outreach and education, comprehensive screening and care coordination, and significant systems improvement efforts, with an emphasis on urban and Latina women. The addition of bilingual social workers and a “promotora” community health worker has allowed us to create new processes for providing ongoing access to care by scheduling monthly “breast health exam clinics” at our Downtown campus, where bilingual navigators work with physicians and advance practitioners to provide breast health education, clinical breast exams (CBE’s), schedule diagnostic imaging (mammograms, ultrasounds), follow-up on results, and help women apply for Medical Assistance and/or Healthy Woman program, as needed. During the period April 2014 through March 2017, the Komen grants have supported the following clinical breast health examinations: 580 clinical breast exams, 528 screening mammograms, 209 diagnostic mammograms, 223 breast ultrasounds, four genetic tests, and 11 breast biopsies. Six women, who progressed through the Komen-supported program, were diagnosed with breast cancer.

In 2017, Prevent Cancer Foundation® awarded Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center Foundation with a $25,000 one-year grant that will reduce cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic barriers and improve access to breast health for Latinas in Reading, Pennsylvania, through targeted outreach, education and patient navigation. The program will use a promotora (community health worker) approach, and the group aims to provide one-on-one and group education for 500 Latinas, as well as screening mammograms for 100 of these women.

Through the Better Breast Health Initiative program, and in close collaboration with local organizations, such as Breast Cancer Support Services of Berks County, SJMC has helped to reduce cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic barriers and to improve breast health care access and screening rates in the target population.