Changing Lives, One Screening at a Time
Monday, November 14, 2016
Posted by: Tom Kochheiser
Genesee County's Community Health Center health coaches recently met with Sara Coates and Nina Lavi of the Michigan Primary Care Association to explain the special efforts underway to provide care to homeless patients. These health coaches work with community members, who are also Health Center patients. Nearly 90 percent of patients seen in their clinics are homeless, but the health coaches are determined to make a seemingly impossible job possible.
Stevie Bingham, an outreach and enrollment specialist, along with Jessica Kuzawinski and Russ Hill, who are health coaches, also known as community health workers, shared their insights with MPCA. They discussed the biggest barriers to breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening among a population of people who don’t have permanent housing, and who often can’t be reached for regular appointments.
Kuzawinski focuses on many projects, including the breast and cervical cancer screening project. “With our population, sometimes we have to address the problems [of homelessness/substance use] first,” she explained. One way the clinic is able to overcome these obstacles is by use of a mobile unit, which effectively brings healthcare to the community members.
“Everything that we have here in the office is on wheels and goes to different locations throughout the week. The goal for that is to be our big, huge advertisement for, ‘Here we are! You can get services right here in the parking lot,’ and we can still address the mammograms and pap-smears and colorectal [screening]. There are still services they [patients] can receive or start the process on the mobile unit.”
Hill focuses on the colorectal cancer screening project. When asked about the barriers he faced to get clients screened for colorectal cancer, he discussed the fear that comes with the preventive procedures.
“The biggest fear, as far as in conversation [with patients and community members] is whenever you look at colorectal kind of stuff, everybody immediately goes to colonoscopies. And if that comes up, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want that,’ we can always offer the idea of the FIT (fecal immunochemical) tests.”
Bingham, the outreach and enrollment specialist, added, “I’ve seen way more success with getting the FIT kits returned [to the lab] than with follow-through with those [colonoscopy] appointments.”
The clinic posts flyers about the importance of colorectal cancer screening, mammograms and pap-smears, which have shown to be helpful with drawing patients in for initial appointments.
“I would say, over the last week and half or two weeks, I’ve had at least seven people call me and say, ‘Hey, what’s this [colorectal cancer screening] all about?’ and then I can direct them here to get the kits or schedule a colonoscopy,” Russ explained.
“I probably get a phone call once or twice a week, sometimes two or three times a week, just from the flyers. So those have helped a lot,” Bingham agreed.
Kuzawinski and Hill, along with ten other health coaches at the clinic, work hard to ensure community members and patients who fall within the guidelines have the opportunity to get screened for cancer. The work they do is changing lives, one screening at a time.