Breast cancer is a leading cause of death for Native American women. Over the last two decades, Oklahoma City Indian Clinic (OKCIC) has sought partnerships and grants in order prevent and treat this disease. Recently, OKCIC gained a new partner in its efforts to educate and screen more Native American women through the Avon Breast Health Outreach Program.
The foundation wing of the health and beauty company awarded the metro Indian Health Service clinic a grant of $48,000 to help fund outreach and screenings. OKCIC applied for the grant over one year ago.
“What we are able to do now with the Avon partnership is it gives us some funding to support our programs,” said Ashton Gatewood, OKCIC public health director, who is a member of the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations.
The grant helps fund things like educational mail-outs, hosting events such as mother/daughter night and its “lunch and learn” program to promote breast cancer screening to provide education and information about the breast care process and how to navigate that system.
This grant is in addition to some of the clinic’s other area partnerships. It also has a 20-year relationship with OU Medicine’s Breast Health Network, which brings a mobile mammogram unit to the clinic at least five times per month.
A great deal of the clinic’s efforts include making screenings part of the preventative process, hosting breast cancer support groups and participating in women’s health fairs at the clinic and within Oklahoma’s tribal communities.
“We think it’s a community mindset change from a negative to more of a positive experience,” Gatewood said.
OKCIC education programs are for Native Americans of all ages. For screenings, the clinic follows IHS guidelines as well as the those established by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society.
These guidelines state, on average, that women age 40 and up should get screenings. Exceptions for younger ages are made if women have direct family history of breast cancer, such as a parent with the disease.
According to Gatewood, the clinic gives an average of 1600 mammograms per year, with an average of 40 per month that might require follow-up imaging.
“This year, our goal is to screen 90 percent of our patients for screening mammograms,” Gatewood said. “Our strategy to reach that goal is we do mail-outs, we do phone calls, we look at our studies from a year back or two years back, and we’ll call them.”
The education efforts of OKCIC are important, Gatewood said, because in many Native American communities, cancer is still a subject that is not discussed. For this reason, OKCIC wants to make breast cancer — and breast cancer awareness as a whole — as positive an experience as possible in order to open lines of communication between the clinic and their patients.
“Breast cancer is something that Native American communities traditionally do not talk about,” Gatewood said. “It’s not something that has a very positive history with our people. What we’re trying to do is get people who have more education to become more comfortable talking about how they can prevent breast cancer, how they can survive breast cancer and providing that support system. It’s still cancer, but it can become a more positive experience.”
Print headline: Saving lives; Oklahoma City Indian Clinic lands an Avon Breast Health Outreach grant.