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Aligning Pink Money with the Heart and Head: Why Pink Ribbon Money Matters for Women of Color

Ideologically, it just makes sense.  For Komen and Planned Parenthood, women’s health is the priority.  Funding the lifesaving care Planned Parenthood provides has always seemed like a “but of course” for Komen supporters.

And yes, I may be biased a bit.  But lest things seem muddier than they are, let me explain.  I came to believe in the work of Planned Parenthood from a very logical examination of the work PP does as part of my own educational journey.

It’s simply academic.  There’s sound rational justification.

              African American women have the highest incidence rate of breast cancer among women under the age of 40, and are more likely to die from breast cancer than white or Latina women.

             Still yet, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Latinas, accounting for 15% of the deaths by cancer.

It’s also an issue of the heart.   These women are our own mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, colleagues, cousins, neighbors…

So, how do we as a society go about addressing this critical issue of racial and ethnic health disparities in the rates of death from breast cancer?

Let’s take a look at some key drivers of this issue.

First, frequently women in these communities don’t know they are at high risk for developing breast cancer.  Early detection of breast cancer is essential – it significantly increases the rate of surviving an incidence of breast cancer.  Given the higher risk of developing breast cancer and also a higher risk of death associated with breast cancer, women in these communities must be especially mindful – do self-examinations and have regular clinical breast exams.

Education.

Next, women in these communities must have access to medical care.  Many factors impede this, including poor patient-medical provider relationships, lacking adequate medical insurance coverage, and simply visiting a medical provider.

Access.

Turns out, it’s not that complicated in the end – education and access.

So how do we go about providing this critical education and increasing access to medical care in order to reduce the risk of death from breast cancer among African American women and Latinas?

Once again, not that complicated: As a society, we must be in the African American and Latina communities providing both education and medical care.

Ergo, Planned Parenthood.

Yep, that’s right – Planned Parenthood already exists in these communities providing critical education and lifesaving services.  And Planned Parenthood is trusted by people in these communities.

Perhaps you should know one other fact:

          Gynecological examinations are frequently the portal for other healthcare for women.

Many women don’t get annual physical examinations.  And when they do seek out medical care, women are most likely to seek out gynecological care.

And what is routine practice in a gynecological visit?  You got it – clinical breast exams.

So perhaps the picture is coming into focus.

Women of color need education and access to medical care in order to successfully win the battle against breast cancer in these communities.  Planned Parenthood is already in these communities providing sexual health education and providing preventative medical care, particularly gynecological care – think of Planned Parenthood as the gateway to the community. Early detection of breast cancer increases as more women in these communities connect with a Planned Parenthood educator or clinician.  The more care Planned Parenthood can provide, critical education and lifesaving access to medical care, health in these communities increases.

And more lives are saved.

Komen money is highly effective when it is given to these existing and trusted entry points in these communities for women’s medical care and education.  Women are educated by the programs they fund.  And, women who come into Planned Parenthood for other services and receive a clinical breast examination, when indicated, receive a referral for a mammogram with a promise of payment, thanks to the Komen funds – a referral and subsequent appointment they would not otherwise have sought out.

Make sense now?  There’s a reason Komen and Planned Parenthood have been partners for several years.

This pink partnership should continue.  It saves lives, particularly for the most vulnerable women.

Jenny Carrilo is the Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Organizational Effectiveness at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE). Connect with Jenny on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.

Health Justice CT provides a public  forum for conversations, ideas and collective action. The opinion expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of HealthJusticeCT or our funder.

Image credit: iStock Photos

About Jenny Carrillo

Jenny Carrilo, Ph.D., is the Senior Vice President of External Affairs and Organizational Effectiveness at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE). Connect with Jenny on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Learn more about Jenny here.

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