At a Hindu temple in New Castle, women talk about their faith and their families, what they will serve for dinner and what they do at work.
But until recently, they did not talk about women’s health.
“Now we ladies have conversations and make sure we get our screenings,” said Chhaya Patel, 53. “We used to tell ourselves that taking care of ourselves was not a big deal. But it is.”
Patel was 50 when she received her first-ever mammogram at Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute. Outreach navigators from the Graham Cancer Center have been partnering with the Hindu temple for several years to educate women about their health and arrange for screenings.
For 13 years in a row, Christiana Care has received a $100,000 grant from Susan G. Komen Philadelphia to fund its Pink Ribbon Program, which pairs patients with bilingual navigators to improve access to free mammography screenings.
“We build trust and relationships by working directly with women who live in non-English speaking communities and don’t have ready access to information about screenings,” said Nora Katurakes, RN, MSN, OCN, manager of Community Health Outreach and Education at the Graham Cancer Center. “The grant allows us to educate women and their families about how to use insurance and access screenings.”
Outreach navigators from the Graham Cancer Center schedule mammograms, arrange for transportation and interpreters, and accompany patients to screenings.
To remove barriers to care for women at the Hindu temple, the outreach staff took an innovative approach, arranging for the Breast Center at the Graham Cancer Center to be open on a Sunday. In the latest screening, 23 women were transported from the temple to the Breast Center and back in an expanded carpool, with volunteer drivers at the wheel.
“A lot of families own businesses and can’t take off on a weekday or a Saturday,” said Kruti Solanki, BSN, RN, a nurse who is the congregation’s volunteer medical coordinator.
No worries about paperwork. The women had lots of help filling out forms. And when each woman went into the room for her screening, an interpreter was waiting for her alongside the mammogram tech.
“It was good having someone there who speaks my language,” said Anjana Pandya, 54. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, and it went very well.”
Patel’s mammogram did not indicate signs of cancer. But she learned she had a high level of vascular calcification in her breast and was referred to a cardiologist.
“I had a bypass,” she said. “I would not have known there was a problem without the mammogram.”
Today, Patel makes her own appointment for her annual mammogram. She and her adult daughter talk openly about women’s health and the importance of regular screenings.
When Katurakes and the outreach workers come to the temple, they are greeted with hugs and smiles. Members of the congregation invite them to share nan, lentil soup and other Indian food.
“We have a relationship that has blossomed into a friendship,” Katurakes said. “We care deeply for these women — and they care for us, too.”