CITY OF AKRON, OH
Mayor Donald Plusquellic

Mayor Meets Demand for Screening with Help from City Employees

Akron, Ohio is a city committed to fighting breast cancer. During 1998, under the leadership of Mayor Donald Plusquellic, the City of Akron set out to work jointly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pink Ribbon Project, housed in the Akron Health Department, to reach qualifying women and get them screened for breast cancer.

City Role in Screening

U. S. Public Law 101-354, enacted in 1990, enabled CDC and state health departments to form partnerships to make screening tests for breast and cervical cancer available to women who are low-income and underserved. Under this legislation, states have the option of designating local health departments to conduct screening and related services. Akron is the largest city in its region. Accordingly, the Ohio State Health Department designated the Akron Department of Public Health to set up screening, community-based education, and outreach services to women in four counties - - Summit, Stark, Portage, and Wayne. The CDC funds allow The Pink Ribbon Project - - Akron. s outreach program - - to screen eligible women for breast and cervical cancer if they meet certain requirements. Women must be over 40, have little or no insurance and be within 200 percent of the national poverty line. An individual woman may make as much as $16,100 and qualify. In addition, for each dependent a woman has she may earn an additional $5,600 and still qualify.

The Pink Ribbon Project worked so well in attracting eligible women into the program that a dilemma occurred. After an ample amount of publicity and outreach, too many eligible women responded for the limited number of screening slots within the Pink Ribbon Project. However, there was no problem with availability and accessibility of medical facilities for screening. In the greater Akron region, eleven hospitals provide a full range of medical care. The city itself is noted for its unusually high degree of quality health care, innovation, and professional staffs. Therefore, it was a matter of finding more funds for the Pink Ribbon Project.

City Employees Respond

During the fall of 1997, Mayor Plusquellic moved to alleviate the problem. Taking the lead from The Mayors. Campaign Against Breast Cancer, Mayor Plusquellic designated three separate Fridays as "Pink Ribbon Dress Down Days." This provided an opportunity for City of Akron personnel to come to work in more casual attire. Each employee paid a $3 fee each Friday for the privilege, and the monies collected went directly to make screening accessible to more women in the Pink Ribbon Project.

In all, $3,400 was raised, and the funds were targeted at reaching minority women who were eligible, but did not have transportation to get to the medical facilities for screening. Free mammograms were offered to over 30 women who were contacted through entities servicing minority populations. Agencies like The International Institute, that works with new refugees, and inner-city churches were given a unique opportunity to respond.

Accessibility was emphasized. A mobile mammography unit was brought into a church congregation, and prequalified women received screening right in their own neighborhoods. To stretch funds and to provide complete breast exams, medical students from the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine performed the clinical breast exams before the actual mammogram was given in the mobile unit. Additionally, the mobile

unit was parked outside the first Akron City Hospital Minority Health Fair, and as over 3,000 people gathered for various screenings, the hospital provided female physicians for clinical breast exams. Two more City of Akron Pink Ribbon Days are currently in the planning stages for fiscal year 1998.

Findings and Future Plans

Akron, an All America City, has a stable population of 223,621 people, with the median age of 33.4. The City of Akron Health Department noted that 44 Akronites died as a direct result of breast cancer in 1996. Their ages ranged from 28 to 100.

With the incidence of breast cancer increasing across the nation and rising with age, the City of Akron is committed to finding the cancer before it claims another citizen.

Through the combination of outreach, screening, and education by The Pink Ribbon Project and the continued generosity and support of Akron city employees, early detection will be available to many more women, and lives will be saved. The City of Akron is counting on it.

Contact: C. William Keck, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Health, Akron Department of Public Health, 330/375-2960.

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