Andrea Ivory had an epiphany shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 at age 45.
Andrea Ivory had an epiphany shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 at age 45. The South Florida woman, who had a thriving commercial real estate business, felt that her volunteer efforts weren’t enough. She walked and volunteered but she wanted to do more.
Then it hit her. She would help educate underserved and high-risk women about breast cancer and get them a mammogram, and then, if they had a problem, she would assign them a navigator to stay with them while they were being treated — and she would remind all the women to return the next year. Oh, and since heart disease is a bigger killer than breast cancer, she would add education about heart disease to the discussion and have their cholesterol checked when they came for a mammogram. And it would all be free to the women she helped because she would raise the money.
And then she did it.
Ivory is presenting a poster session at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium about the success of her program, The Women’s Breast Health Initiative, which has been screening women in three south Florida counties since 2005. The research for the poster session was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which awarded Ivory $125,000 with her community leader award in 2011. The results from that research mean Ivory now has an evidence-based model — key words for researchers and health care professionals.
Her success is based on a three-pronged approach that begins with door-to-door outreach provided by multilingual volunteers who offer information to women in single-family homes living at twice the poverty level. The volunteers educate the women about breast cancer, and, since 2013, about heart disease. Before leaving, the volunteers set up a mammogram appointment at the mobile unit that will be in the neighborhood that month.
“These are the women who take care of us,” Ivory says. “They are the women who don’t have health insurance but serve us in a number of ways as the wheels of our society.”
Since 2006 volunteers have visited more than 72,000 homes. And for women not living in the targeted door-to-door outreach neighborhood who contact WBHI, she provides referrals to one of their partner hospitals.
“Women we have worked with tell other women and they call us, and we take care of them too.”
The third part of her success is the annual rescreening program where women are contacted to repeat their screening. The women receive cards and then a phone call, Ivory says, to rescreen those who need it.
“It’s about education and saving lives,” Ivory says simply. When women are found to have an issue that needs follow up, they are assigned a navigator who follows them through the process of working with one of the group’s partner hospitals.
The program’s rate of finding undiagnosed breast cancer is a bit higher than other early detection programs at around 12 percent.
Ivory would be happy to talk to you about the program, but don't call on Saturdays because she is going door-to-door to educate women.
I think it’s time for a few more epiphanies.
To learn more about this program go to flbreasthealth.com.