Low-income people often lack access to affordable healthcare and many Community Action Agencies offer assistance with this. The Community Action Committee of Pike County has been providing quality, affordable healthcare to people in southern Ohio for 30 years through their five healthcare centers known as Valley View Health Centers. And thanks to a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), they were able to improve preventive healthcare in 2013 by offering cervical cancer screenings.
The goal of the project was to reach out to women between the ages of 24 and 64 who had not had a pap smear in the last three years. “More than 11,000 women are newly diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States every year,” stated Debbie More, registered medical assistant/case manager for Valley View Health Centers. “Statistics in the United States from 2010 showed that 11,818 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3,939 women died from cervical cancer.” During this project, the health centers provided much-needed preventive screenings for the disease on over 790 women.
The project began in February of 2013 when Moore reviewed the charts for nearly 4,000 women between the ages of 24 and 64. Of these, 921 had a current pap smear result, and 569 had hysterectomies and no longer need screenings, leaving approximately 2,500 women who had not received the potentially life-saving test. “I mailed out 2,331 letters to women who needed a pap smear according to our records. The letter indicated to these women that they had not had a pap smear in the past three years. We also offered a $20 gift card if the woman scheduled a pap smear and came into the practice to have the testing done. I also included a flier regarding what cervical cancer is and how to be tested for it,” Moore explained. “There were 70 women who phoned me to let me know that they had a pap smear done outside the practice. I requested those results from other providers, so that we would have the results documented in the patient’s medical record.”
Debbie then started a second round of reviewing charts in August. “At this point, there were 59 more results in the charts and 49 more hysterectomies documented. There were 55 more women that phoned me to let me know that they had a pap smear done outside the practice. I requested those results also. I mailed out another 281 letters and spoke with several women on the phone or left several messages,” she said. “By September 2013, we had given out over one hundred $20 gift cards.” Moore said one of the obstacles was not having a current address or phone number for patients, or a lack of voicemail.
She is tracking 166 women who had an abnormal pap smear as part of the project. She said it is even more imperative to educate these women on the importance of following up on their abnormal results. “Our physicians and nurse practitioners are strongly encouraging and educating women about the importance of having a cervical cancer screening. This project has been a very huge undertaking, but it has been a very effective one,” Moore concluded.