RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services has received five years of funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to partner with federally qualified health centers to increase colorectal cancer screenings, particularly among underserved communities in North Carolina.
“Colorectal cancer is the fourth leading cause of all cancer deaths in North Carolina, but it’s treatable and beatable if caught in early stages,” said Dr. Susan Kansagra, chief of the Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Section in the Division of Public Health. “Our aim is to remove barriers to screening and treatment for people in the higher-risk age range (50 to 75), including those who may not have access to health insurance, and move North Carolina further toward the national testing goal of screening 80 percent in every community.”
This new funding, which includes nearly $700,000 in the first year, will assist selected health centers in improving colorectal cancer screening systems and educating their patients on the importance of routine checks for early detection. The funding also will be used to provide appropriate follow-up care for uninsured or underinsured patients who have abnormal test results.
Federally qualified health centers are community-based centers that provide primary care services in underserved areas, including for residents without health insurance.The centers that have colorectal cancer screening rates of less than 60% and have at least two clinic sites will be considered for participation in the program.
Colorectal cancer particularly affects historically marginalized populations, including racial and ethnic minorities; African Americans having the highest incidence and mortality rates. In 2019, health centers in the state served more than 610,000 patients, 33% of whom were African American and 30% Hispanic or Latino. However, only 46% of patients age 50-75 were screened for colorectal cancer.
With the coronavirus pandemic causing people to postpone some routine medical procedures, national colorectal cancer screening rates have declined 86%, according to an analysis by Epic Health Research Network. As the virus also disproportionately affects historically marginalized populations in North Carolina, it is more important than ever to increase preventative screenings among the state’s vulnerable communities.
The funding will be administered by the N.C. Partnerships to Increase Colorectal Cancer Screening, which includes the state Department of Health and Human Services, the American Cancer Society and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Regular cancer screenings are critical and can be done as safely as possible following CDC and state guidelines for health care facilities.
To learn more about state initiatives to ease the burden of cancer in North Carolina, visit https://bit.ly/2ROEHmp.