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Home > > NewsroomHAP, Henry Ford Health System Eliminate Racial Gap in Mammogram Screening

HAP, Henry Ford Health System Eliminate Racial Gap in Mammogram Screening

DETROIT – Supported with incentives and culturally tailored materials, a Detroit-based initiative has erased a disparity between Caucasian and African-American women for receiving mammograms.

Nationally, primary health care, screening and other preventive services are far underutilized by minorities for a host of reasons, many of which are still poorly understood.

The Addressing Disparities in Breast Cancer Screening initiative was a collaboration among Health Alliance Plan (HAP), Henry Ford Health System and large employers in southeast Michigan.

Under the two-year initiative, mammography screening rates for African-American women in the target population jumped to 82.3 percent in December 2006, up from 76 percent in 2004.

"I am pleased to report that we not only dramatically increased breast cancer screening rates in this population – we eliminated the disparity," says Mary Beth Bolton, MD, FACP, chief medical officer at HAP. "We will use these findings to enhance our outreach efforts to women to get early screening and treatment, which can save lives."
With regular screening, breast cancer is more likely to be detected at an earlier stage, when it is most treatable, says Bolton.  Early detection has markedly improved breast cancer survival and minimizes the treatment needed.

Although the incidence of breast cancer is highest in white women, breast cancer mortality rates are highest among racial minorities. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, African Americans are nearly 39 percent more likely than Caucasians to die from breast cancer.

The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) honored the significance of the initiative by presenting HAP with an Innovation in Multicultural Health Care Award.

"Health Alliance Plan has created an innovative program that health plans nationwide should use as a model for bridging language and cultural gaps that so easily get in the way of quality care," said Margaret E. O'Kane, president of NCQA. "Creating a patient-centered, multicultural health care system must be among the highest priorities of providers and health plans alike."

With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, HAP employed several methods to help the women seek mammography services. Among them:

  • Identification of key barriers to getting routine mammograms
  • Culturally tailored materials
  • Incentives, such as a gift card, given to women who received a mammogram
  • "Mammogram Blitz" at Henry Ford Medical Center – Fairlane in Dearborn, a Saturday walk-in event for women to receive a mammogram and perks, including chair massages, hand treatments and refreshments.

The American Cancer Society also contributed by calling women to encourage them to schedule their mammograms and transferring their calls to selected radiology sites for appointment scheduling.

Henry Ford Health System physicians viewed HAP data revealing disparities in their patient population, identified barriers that providers face when screening African American women and shared best practices.

"The Breast Cancer Screening initiative is an excellent model for how health plans, health care providers, large employers and other community partners can work together to address critical health disparities in our communities and create measurable results," said Kimberlydawn Wisdom, M.D., Michigan Surgeon General and vice president of Community Health, Education and Wellness at Henry Ford.

The Michigan Quality Improvement Consortium recommends mammograms and clinical breast exams every one to two years starting at age 40. To encourage all women to comply with these recommendations, HAP enters all women who receive a mammogram into a monthly drawing for a ,000 gift card. Female HAP members aligned with Henry Ford Health System who are due for a mammogram receive pink mammogram order forms and personalized screening reminder letters from their primary care physician.


About HAP
Headquartered in Detroit, Health Alliance Plan is a nonprofit health plan serving more than 540,000 members and 2,000 employer groups. The National Committee for Quality Assurance awarded HAP's commercial HMO and HAP Senior Plus, its Medicare Advantage HMO, Excellent Accreditation.  HAP has an expansive product portfolio that includes HMO, PPO, individual plans and more.

About Henry Ford Health System
Henry Ford Health System, one of the country's largest health care systems, integrates primary and specialty care with research and education. It includes the 1,000 member Henry Ford Medical Group, five owned hospitals, Health Alliance Plan, 25 primary care centers and many other health-related entities located throughout southeastern Michigan.

Tiffany Baker, MA
Health Alliance Plan
(248) 443-1072

Dwight Angell
Henry Ford Health System
(313) 876-8709

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