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Michigan’s Federally Qualified Health Centers Innovate, Increase Access to Life-saving Cancer Screen

Wednesday, November 16, 2016  
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Funding from Healthy Michigan, Affordable Care Act, and Community Health Workers Cancer Grant continues to drive preventive care for underserved communities

LANSING, Mich. — Ten Michigan Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) increased screening rates for breast and cervical cancers over the past year as part of an initiative sponsored by the Community Health Workers Cancer Grant. The grant was made possible by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“Targeted grants like these, in addition to the Affordable Care Act and the Medicaid expansion through Healthy Michigan, are helping thousands of Michiganders achieve measurable positive health outcomes in cancer screenings,” said Loretta V. Bush, Chief Executive Officer for the Michigan Primary Care Association (MPCA). “I cannot understate the importance of these resources.”

The results were profound, especially at Northwest Michigan Health Services’ Shelby and Traverse City locations. Pap smears increased by 105 percent and 191 percent, and mammograms increased by 42 percent and 101 percent, respectively. All sites saw a dramatic increase in referrals to specialists, such as oncologists and radiologists, and added more patients to their care rosters.

To achieve these results, Health Centers leveraged technology and community health workers to identify at-risk women and coordinate outreach. Community health workers, the frontline liaisons between health and social service providers and the areas they serve, were crucial to this process.

“Some women were afraid or reluctant to come in for tests. Others didn’t have a reliable form of transportation or a way to pay their copays,” said Sara Coates, Associate Director of Integrated Health for the MPCA. “It was immediately clear to community health workers that building trust was needed to provide care.”

Community health workers incentivized screenings and organized transportation. They also established relationships by addressing people’s most critical needs — housing, food, or preexisting conditions — first. Building a foundation of trust led to eventual screenings.

“Access to primary care helps ensure routine screenings are conducted early, so that women with breast or cervical cancers can be identified at earlier stages of these diseases,” Bush said. “As a result, survival rates are higher, and the cancers are less expensive to treat.”

Participating FQHCs included Genesee Community Health Centers in Atherton and Center City; Baldwin Family Health Care in Baldwin and White Cloud; Northwest Michigan Health Services, Inc. in Traverse City and Shelby; Muskegon Family Care; Thunder Bay Community Health Service, Inc.; and Upper Great Lakes Family Health Centers in Houghton and Hancock.


For more than 35 years, the Michigan Primary Care Association has been the voice for Health Centers and other community-based providers. MPCA is a leader in building a healthy society in which all residents have convenient and affordable access to quality health care. Today, 43 Michigan Health Center organizations provide quality, affordable, comprehensive primary and preventive care to 650,000 Michigan residents at 260 delivery sites across the state. MPCA’s mission is to promote, support, and develop comprehensive, accessible, and affordable quality community-based primary care services to everyone in Michigan. For more information, please visit

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