The Coastal Georgia affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced Thursday that the Liberty County Health Department is among its eight recipients for 2012 grant awards.
The Health Department received $30,750 to continue its BRAVE, Be Readily Available and Very Empathetic Project, which originally was funded in 2010.
Betty Dixon, nursing and clinical director for the Coastal Health District, said the award will go toward breast screenings and mammograms for under- and uninsured women in the county.
“For women who don’t have insurance, breast health may seem like the least of their concerns,” she said. “But the fact is that women need to get screened so that if there is an issue, we can get them into treatment early.”
The funds must be used between April 1 and March 31, 2013, according to Liberty County Health Department nurse manager Annie Washington, who said there are needy women in Liberty and the surrounding counties. To broaden BRAVE’s focus, BRAVE II will enhance access to breast health care by offering after-hours and Saturday screening mammogram opportunities in addition to outreach education and screenings, according to the grant abstract released by Komen.
Beth Desloges, mission outreach coordinator for the Coastal Georgia affiliate, said a biennial community assessment identifies areas of need within the affiliate, and those needs factor into grant determinations.
This year, the affiliate awarded a total of $286,000 in grants, which are funded by the annual Savannah Race for the Cure. The 5K run and walk was initiated in 2009, and 75 percent of the proceeds raised are awarded to local organizations, she said. The other 25 percent goes funds breast-cancer research.
The 2011 assessment combined quantitative data from the Georgia Department of Community Health and Online Analytical Statistical Information System (OASIS) and Thompson Reuters data packs with qualitative data from focus groups.
“Interestingly enough, those statistics really pulled us in the direction of three really rural counties in our area: Liberty, Long and McIntosh,” Desloges said. “The three of them really go hand in hand.”
The three counties shared a high percentage of women not getting mammograms after the age of 40, she said. In addition to low mammography rates, the counties also have high late-detection rates.
In Liberty County, more than 41 percent of women older than 40 have not had a mammogram within the past 12 months; Long had more than 42 percent.
“That’s significantly higher than the rest of our service area,” she added.
Also, women in Liberty County are diagnosed with breast cancer at significantly younger ages than those in other coastal counties.
“This is not a scientific study that we do; it’s a community assessment,” she said. “So our goal of going in there is not necessarily to figure out why things might be happening, but so we can figure out how we can help the situation — our ultimate goal at Susan G. Komen is to save lives.”
In focus groups and interviews with local women, Desloges said patterns emerged to explain the late detection.
Many women said that lack of financial resources prevented them from seeking screenings, and some reported a lack of awareness for local care providers and clinics as barriers to care. Still, some reported fear as a factor that prevented their care.
“Women in those areas don’t know where to go to find services,” she said. “They might be aware that if they find a lump in their breast, or if something is abnormal, they might know that they’re supposed to do something, but they might not know where to go.
“I feel like there’s a great deal of awareness about breast cancer out there, but when they don’t have all the information they need — where to go, how to go, how to handle it — there are gaps.”
The assessment also identified target population groups, such as uninsured women who do not seek treatment, and military-connected ones who report that their culture places less emphasis on breast health.
Desloges, who is also a military spouse, said she found the military population data to be surprising because medical coverage is such that there should not be financial barriers to care.
But her studies found that a range of female service members and dependents are not getting screened because of misperception, fear and an overall attitude where their health takes a backseat to that of their family members.
To combat the problem, Desloges said she is working with Family Readiness groups and Winn Army Community Hospital.
“One in eight women will get breast cancer in her lifetime; that’s a statistic that blows my mind,” Desloges said. “I think it just shows the gravity of this disease.”