State set to receive $2.6M CDC grant to improve colon-cancer screenings, Gov. Beshear announces

08/25/2015 08:51 PM

FRANKFORT — With colon-cancer screenings in Kentucky improving considerably in recent years, Gov. Steve Beshear said Tuesday he hopes a five-year, $2.6 million federal grant will improve access in low-income communities in Appalachia and Louisville.

Beshear announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will send $529,428 per year to the Department for Public Health for five years.

The funding will complement other preventative efforts, such as a collaboration among the Kentucky Cancer Program, Horses and Hope, University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center and KentuckyOne Health for a mobile screening unit at free or reduced rates that first lady Jane Beshear also announced Tuesday.

Louisville and Appalachia are the focus of the CDC grant “because those regions have large numbers of underserved, under screened residents,” Gov. Beshear said, also touting federal health care reform as a means to expand access to colon-cancer screenings.

“The Kentucky Health Now initiative set a goal of reducing cancer deaths in Kentucky by 10 percent by 2019,” he said. “We believe that this grant will help us to achieve that goal.

“Cancer is a horrible enemy. I know. I’m a cancer survivor myself, but there is hope and we are not helpless. … If we work together and aggressively take steps like we’re announcing today, we can significantly lessen the suffering of our people and improve the long-term health of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Previous efforts to improve colon-cancer screenings have yielded positive results. Beshear noted a law passed in 2010 wherein screenings were covered in all health plans as well as $1 million in matching grants between the state and the Kentucky Cancer Foundation over the past two bienniums.

Dr. Tom Tucker, the University of Kentucky’s associate director for cancer control and senior director for cancer surveillance, said the state’s ranking for colorectal cancer screens has jumped from 49th in the country to 23rd in seven years.

But barriers remain for low-income residents, some of whom remain uninsured. Dr. Whitney Jones, co-founder of the Kentucky Cancer Foundation and founder of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, said the CDC grant would improve outreach to those in underserved areas of Kentucky.

“The single greatest piece in Kentucky now is the people, they feel great,” Jones said. “They don’t have any family history. They don’t feel like they need to be screened. Going to the doctor’s not a common thing, particularly for a lot of men.

“The second reason has actually been that their physicians or health providers haven’t recommended that. … But essentially barriers to prevention and screening are socioeconomic and educational barriers.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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