Colon cancer prevention program celebrates milestone

More than 200 free colonoscopies have been given in the South Metro Latino community

Colorectal cancer is the second-most-diagnosed cancer among Latinos. But screening rates have been falling behind those of non-Latinos in Minnesota.

That, and an assessment of community health needs, prompted Fairview to take action. 

The assessment discovered that some Latinos in the South Metro faced language and financial barriers to getting health care. So Fairview community health worker Francisco Ramirez began establishing relationships and offering culturally tailored education, focusing on disease prevention. Through his work, colon cancer was identified as a top concern. 

In 2014, the endoscopy, oncology, and community health teams at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina united to address the problem. The program expanded to Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville the next year. 

We’ve now performed more than 200 free colonoscopies for Latino community members. Of those getting a colonoscopy, 46 percent had polyps removed. We’ve also provided education and support to more than 1,400 people in the community.

Elements for success

Fairview doctors volunteer their time to do the colonoscopies. Participants are ages 50 to 64 or in a higher-risk group, have limited or no medical insurance, and live in the South Metro. 

A major aspect of the program’s success is the outreach. Francisco goes to Spanish-language masses, parent groups in schools, and community organizations. He raises awareness by doing interviews on Hispanic radio and the Univision television channel. 

Francisco also serves as a patient liaison by scheduling the procedures. He helps patients understand the preparation and answers their questions. 

“Having the support of the same person – from outreach through screening – builds trust and encourages follow-through,” Francisco says.

Community partnerships also make a difference. Our partners provide forums for outreach, promote the initiative among their communities, refer patients, and donate supplies.

Changing and saving lives

Results from surveys show those who received a free colonoscopy are thankful for the procedure and understand the importance of the screening. In 2018, 100 percent of survey respondents said they’d recommend that others have a colonoscopy at Fairview.

“Through the Colorectal Cancer Prevention Awareness Program, Fairview is able to reach beyond the walls of our hospitals,” says Alissa LeRoux Smith, a community health strategist. “We’re thrilled that we’ve been able to potentially save more than 200 lives.”

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