Stephen S. Grubbs, M.D., a practicing oncologist within Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center, and Nora Katurakes, RN, MSN, OCN, Christiana Care’s manager of Community Health Outreach & Education, are the authors of a highlighted article in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The article by Dr. Grubbs and Katurakes is titled “Eliminating Racial Disparities in Colorectal Cancer in the Real World: It Took a Village” and focuses on Delaware’s successful efforts to eliminate the racial disparity in colon cancer between African Americans and whites.
“We demonstrated through this report on what can happen when the state’s entire health care community is mobilized toward a common goal,” said Dr. Grubbs, also a member of the Delaware Cancer Consortium. “The First State is the first state to show that they have eliminated a health disparity statewide.”
Christiana Care used a multi-pronged approach and partnered with the state’s other acute-care health systems, the provider community and the government to work toward the common goal of saving lives from colorectal cancer. A special focus was placed on eliminating the disparity by targeting the underserved who were most at risk of death from the disease.
The state-run Screening for Life program started paying for colorectal screenings for uninsured patients who qualified. That was combined with the Delaware Cancer Treatment Program which provided free cancer treatment for up to two years. Additionally, cancer screening nurse navigators at Christiana Care and other health systems recruited both insured and uninsured patients for cancer screening and coordination of care. From 2004 to 2011, the program provided more than 10,000 navigations and 5,000 colorectal cancer screenings.
“Colorectal cancer is preventable and does not have to be a loss of life sentence, no matter the background of the patient,” Katurakes said. “We are partnering with our patients so they will talk to their family members and their local community about colorectal cancer and how screening saves lives.”
The article has found that the colorectal cancer treatment program alone saved $8.5 million between 2001 and 2009 due to the reduced incidence of cancer and the stage shift to cancers that require less aggressive therapy. About $6 million has been invested annually in the Delaware Cancer Treatment Program to cover treatment for all types of cancer.
The article also accompanies a column on the subject by U.S. Congressman John Carney, representing the first time that a sitting U.S. Congressman has been included as an author in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.