By CARLOS GALLEGO
AAP staff writer
HOUSTON (July 31, 2012) — The Asian Breast Cancer Outreach Project (ABHOP) was one of 120 organizations or programs selected to present at the nation’s most prestigious symposium for Cancer and minorities — The Biennial Symposium on Minorities, the Medically Underserved & Health Equity — in July at the Hilton Americas.
ABHOP is among the nation’s most innovative champions when it comes to effectively creating breast cancer health awareness, delivering educational information, providing mammography exams to uninsured and underinsured Asian women and closing the loop by connecting them with appropriate treatment referrals.
What makes this organization’s feats particularly noteworthy is that while most organizations outreach efforts tend to focus on a specific community or a few at best, this is not the case with ABHOP.
Currently communities they serve include: Bangladeshi, Bhutanese, Burmese, Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian, Indian, Laotian, Korean, Japanese, Malaysian, Pakistani, Singaporean, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai and Vietnamese. Their webpage is in English, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese and contains information about their programs and services, applications for services and important health information. Application forms for services can be downloaded from their website in eight different languages.
ABHOP was founded in 2001 and provides more than 8,000 free mammograms to those in the Asian community who are of low income and do not have insurance or have access to mammogram screening help. They follow through from screening all the way to needle biopsy until the diagnosis is found.
All cancers found are referred to next step help for treatment. They also provide awareness through ethnic advertisements and articles. Another service they provide is free education through seminars and/or attendance at health and/or community fairs.
By bringing awareness in each Asian community, ABHOP keeps the screening message alive and ever present in women’s lives so they do not forget about getting screenings for themselves, noted Doris Cheng, Administrative Manager at ABHOP.
Although the Asian ethnic groups in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are not exactly the same as the Asian groups located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, there is much that can be learned from the work of ABHOP.
Doris Cheng agreed to respond to a series of questions regarding outreach strategies and issues facing communities. Ms. Cheng’s responses will provide particular benefit to both Asian organizations as well and mainstream organizations working with diverse populations. Below are the questions and responses:
How are the issues that prevent women from accessing services different between the various Asian communities?
Each Asian community is different depending on how assimilated they are to the American way of life. We have recent immigrants who cannot write their own names or addresses in English and we have some communities that could speak limited English but depend on children for help for things outside their comfort zones and other Asian communities so advanced that they have health fairs to help their community.
ABHOP tries to meet each Asian community’s needs as best we can. At the end of the day, all communities face the same four barriers (language, cultural, financial, and knowledge) in some level keeping them from doing their mammogram:
• Language barrier: do not speak English, do not know how and fear to express one’s physical condition to a Caucasian doctor.
• Cultural barrier: It is by fate that you have breast cancer, we do not talk about breast cancer to people outside the family, it is a shame, it is guilt, and it is a stigma to the family.
• Financial barrier: low-income and are uninsured or under-insured.
• Knowledge barrier: do not know what a mammogram is, mammogram will cause pain and radiation from mammogram will cause breast cancer.
What is the most important message you try to share with women?
Mammogram can detect breast cancer at an early stage. Routine mammogram can save your life. A happy family starts with a healthy mom.
What are some of the lesson learned that you can share with others trying to similar work in other parts of the United States?
Assess the needs. Make materials easy to understand and provide it in common Asian languages. Build a multi-lingual staff. Train staff to be caring, culturally sensitive, and treat everybody with deference and love.
What is some of the data that is important to know regarding the communities within which you work?
Screening, Incidence, and Mortality rates are important to track for trending purposes. In our program, we track referrals, actual screening, diagnostic, biopsy, and cancers found. We also reach out to make referral to next step care. Data is scarce for the Asian community. Even less if further drilled into the subgroups within the Asian category. Please feel free to look at our website at asianbreasthealth.org to see what types of information and stats are shared with our community in different Asian languages. We share data that they need to know so that they take part in screening.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
ABHOP’s mission is to empower the Asian communities to be breast health conscious and adopt routine screening into their lives. A healthy family starts with a healthy mom.
Over the years, more and more people are hearing the message and are taking action to screening. Our program started with 100 clients and has grown to 1772 screening clients with 13 breast cancers found just last year.
This ratio is higher than the average incidence rate of 2-4 in 1200 found in the Dallas area. Help is needed to reach this silent group and ABHOP is glad to be able to bring the knowledge and services to these communities.
ABHOP has been awarded the American Cancer Society’s Harold P. Freeman award in 2009 for breaking down the health disparities in minorities in our community. ABHOP has also been recognized in 2010 Dallas Business Journal as the Healthcare Hero of the Year.
ABHOP is funded by the Dallas Affiliate of Komen for the Cure, by the state through the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, and by Young Texans Against Cancer.
For more information on ABHOP call 972-498-8601 or go to their website: www.asianbreasthealth.org.