Health initiative has attracted more than 4,000 volunteers

admin | 12/19/2011, 7:26 a.m.

When many people see an RV, they instantly imagine the many life changing cross country road trips and camping expeditions. But for Andrea Ivory, the founder of the Womens Breast Health Initiative, the RV she envisioned could help save lives. The vehicle would provide on-the-spot mammogram screenings to any woman who signed up. But for Ivory the RV, now known simply as the mammography van, was only one component of the vision that would later evolve into the Womens Breast Health Initiative. Diagnosed with breast cancer herself seven years ago, 52-year old Ivory realized how fortunate she was in spite of her prognosis. I was blessed to have health insurance awareness and early detection awareness, she recalled.Throughout the recovery, I thought about those women who unfortunately did not have the awareness [about breast cancer] or insurance. According to the Black Women's Health Imperative, uninsured women are less likely to be screened for breast cancer and are 30 to 50 percent more likely to die from the disease. Aware of the disparity, the breast cancer screening Ivory envisioned would have volunteers go door-to-door in neighborhoods chosen exactly because the residents were least likely to have health insurance. We target single home neighborhoods with a medium income of 200 percent below the poverty level, Ivory explained. During her first outreach campaign in April 2006, Ivory and about 20 friends, managed to knock on 100 doors in 10 minutes, according to the Womens Breast Health Initiative. Today, we get all kinds of reactions. People think were selling something, that were asking for something. [They] are quite shocked that in this day and age, someone would come knock on their door and provide them with a life-saving mammogram. Women are scheduled to receive a mammogram on the spot. Once the door-to-door portion of the campaign is completed, the Womens Breast Health Initiative sends out its mammography van so that the women can receive screenings in their neighborhood. For the times when there are too many women scheduled than the RV can handle, the initiative provides rides for clients to local partnering hospitals to conduct their mammograms. What we try to do is break down every barrier that would prevent women from getting the screening that would save their lives, she explained. The Womens Breast Health Initiative conducts its neighborhood drives in February, March, April and October and operates primarily in neighborhoods in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Since its first campaign, the initiative has knocked on an estimated 40,000 doors and provided 1000 mammograms, with the help of an army of 4000 volunteers, said Ivory, who had to hire a full time volunteer coordinator to help with recruitment. For her efforts, the founder of the Womens Breast Health Initiative was awarded the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award on Nov. 9th. The director of the Community Health Leaders National Program, Janice Ford Griffin, praised initiatives efforts. Andrea Ivorys determination and her creative use of proven marketing techniques have opened the door for expanding education about and prevention of breast cancer, as well as other health issues that have a disproportionate impact on people with the least access to health care, Griffin said. With the help of the monetary reward included with the Health Leaders Award, Ivory has plans to expand the programs reach to West Palm Beach and beyond. Were working very hard to refine our model and prepare it for replication throughout the country, she said. For more information about the Womens Breast Health Initiative, please visitwww.b4pink.com. By Kaila Heard kheard@miamitimesonline.com