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Screenings Day – #NHCW17

Screenings Day – #NHCW17

The theme of National Health Center Week this year – Celebrating America’s Health Centers: The Key to Healthier Communities – is meant to recognize the ways in which health centers serve as the foundation of health within their community. As we kickoff this incredible week of celebration, we have designated days within the week to showcase key elements of success within the Health Center Program. Today we celebrate the incredible work health centers across the country are doing to provide critical preventive care services and life-saving screenings. We’ll hear from Dr. Richard C. Wender, Chief Cancer Control Officer at the American Cancer Society and Chair of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable as he discusses some of the amazing progress that has been done to screen adults for colorectal cancer at health centers. 

Celebrating Health Screenings Day: How health centers are making remarkable progress toward the ambitious goal of regularly screening 80% of adults aged 50+ for colorectal cancer by 2018

Dr. Richard C. Wender

By Richard C. Wender, MD, Chief Cancer Control Officer, American Cancer Society, Inc. and Chair, NCCRT

Few preventive interventions are as reliably effective in reducing avoidable death as screening for colorectal cancer, yet nearly two in three community health center patients between 50 and 75 years old are not getting screened as recommended.

To address this gap, the American Cancer Society (the Society), the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT); a national coalition co-supported by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and NACHC are working together to ensure health centers have the tools they need to close the gap and make sure all adults have access to potentially life-saving colorectal cancer screening. Beginning in 2014, each organization made a commitment to work toward the ambitious goal of regularly screening 80% of adults aged 50+ for colorectal cancer by 2018.

I’m thrilled to report we’re beginning to see incredible progress among the nation’s health centers. Data released just last week show health centers reached a 39.9% colorectal cancer screening rate in 2016! That’s a more than five percentage point jump since the launch of the 80% by 2018 campaign in 2014. And as of 2016, 28 health centers have already reached the 80% goal.

screenings_day_4.jpgPeoples Community Health Clinic (PCHC) of Waterloo, Iowa is one of those centers. Starting in 2013, PCHC partnered with the Society and the Iowa Primary Care Association to increase colorectal cancer screening from a baseline rate of 31%. Through the support of a Walgreens CHANGE Grant and technical assistance provided by the Society, PCHC made significant innovations.

PCHC worked from the NCCRT’s Steps for Increasing Colorectal Cancer Screening Rates: A Manual for Community Health Centers to establish process improvement teams and conduct current state assessments and process mapping. They 

From left: Dr. Sharon Duclos, Co-Medical Director, PCHC; Nilani Downs, American Cancer Society; Lanett Kane, RN, BSN, Quality Director, PCHC
Dr. Sharon Duclos, Co-Medical Director, PCHC; Nilani Downs, American Cancer Society; Lanett Kane, RN, BSN, Quality Director, PCHC

then developed a project charter to guide implementation, with a focus on two major areas for improvement: 1) empowering care team members to work together to increase screening rates, and 2) increasing care team members’ comfort level in talking with patients about screening. PCHC developed innovative approaches to talk with patients about colorectal cancer screening and developed processes to provide consistent patient navigation and follow-up. Return rates for the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) soon climbed to 85%. And as of May 2017, PCHC surpassed the 80% of 2018 goal, achieving a truly remarkable rate of 82%.

Ron Yee, MD, NACHC’s Chief Medical Officer, said that “NACHC is proud to join with ACS and the NCCRT’s 80% by 2018 pledge. We know that early detection of colorectal cancer through screening leads to  better patient outcomes. Health centers across the country are finding innovative ways to reach out to their patient populations and increase colorectal cancer screening rates among people at risk.”

Innovation. Dedication. Persistence. These are words I hear used to describe the work happening in health centers nearly every day. No matter where your center is starting in your efforts to screen patients for colorectal cancer, and no matter how modest your initial goals, there is no doubt that you play one of the most critical roles in saving lives from colorectal cancer. 

From left: Lanett Kane, RN, BSN, Quality Director, PCHC and Dr. Sharon Duclos, Co-Medical Director, PCHC

The Society is here to support you in your cancer screening goals; visit www.nccrt.org and www.cancer.org/health-care-professionals to find tools and resources and don’t hesitate to call on your local Society partners for assistance in your efforts.

We will sustain this effort, working as fast as we can, as long as it takes, to reach 80% screening rates and beyond in every community throughout the nation. Thank you for all that you are doing to achieve 80% by 2018, and best wishes for a celebratory National Health Center Week!


The American Cancer Society’s mission is to save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer. As the nation’s largest private, nonprofit investor in cancer research, we’re finding cures, continuing the fight for access to quality health care and lifesaving screenings, and ensuring people facing cancer have the help they need. To learn more, call (800) 227-2345 or visit cancer.org.