CITY OF PONTIAC, MI
Mayor Walter Moore

Mayor's Health Initiative Kicked Off With Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Strategically located in north Oakland County, Pontiac was once the center of trade and industry for the area. Confronted with challenges that confront many aging urban cities, Pontiac’s residents, public officials, and human service providers have been working to reestablish the community fabric and restore the community’s vitality. One such initiative begun by Mayor Walter Moore’s administration is the Pontiac Health Initiative. The Pontiac Health Initiative (PHI) is a partnership between the mayor’s office and the three area hospitals – North Oakland Medical Centers, POH Medical Center, and St. Joseph Mercy-Oakland – and complements the services .of the Oakland County Health Division.

The charge of PHI is to improve the health status of the 72,000 residents of Pontiac. This is not an easy task due to the large number of Pontiac residents who do not have health care insurance and cannot afford the cost of preventative health care services. This is especially true in the area of breast cancer diagnosis. Women too often are diagnosed in the later stages of breast cancer when treatment is less effective. One of the first projects of the Pontiac Health Initiative is to address this need.

Creating The Pontiac Health Initiative: A Unique Partnership

Pontiac lies in the center of Oakland County, the third richest county in the United States. The comparison between the city and the county is stark, but health issues in Pontiac get diluted when compiled with Oakland County statistics. Accordingly, in September of 1998 Mayor Moore met with the chief executive officers of the three city hospitals, and the Pontiac Health Initiative began with funding from these three entities and the city government. Working closely with the Oakland County Health Division, this new partnership is designed to respond to the special health needs of the citizens of Pontiac.

In March of 1999 the director of care .management was hired, and the implementation of the city-based health initiative began with the following premises:

  • In order to create a healthier community, collaboration must exist between health service providers and community .members; and

  • Healthy residents contribute to the development of stronger communities.

After meeting with various community groups in Pontiac, one of the first projects chosen for PHI was breast cancer awareness. To be certain, each of the hospitals promoted breast cancer awareness to some extent at their facilities each October to coincide with the national observance. However, PHI placed the emphasis on bringing the programs out of the hospitals and on identifying women’s level of risk in developing breast cancer.

Community Outreach

During October 1999, breast cancer awareness programs were held at two community centers, one community clinic, and three hospital sites. The community sites were chosen because a large number of women meet regularly at these sites on the scheduled dates, and the program tapped into these preexisting groups. To market the .programs to other community women, a promotional brochure was developed and disseminated widely to churches, community centers, shelters, laundromats, grocery stores, and employees of hospitals and the city. Other community resources were enlisted to help promote the events such .as: cable television; newspapers – Oakland Press and Michigan Chronicle; and the .electronic sign over the Phoenix Center – .a central complex for events and parking.

Each of the city’s area hospitals donated staff and resources to the community sites. The services that were offered at these events included:

  • instruction on monthly self-breast exams;

  • clinical breast exam by a physician;

  • educational materials on breast cancer;

  • reduced-rate mammogram available in the City of Pontiac;

  • a chance to join in the fight against breast cancer by joining in the American Cancer Society’s Ask A Friend program; and

  • an opportunity to take part in the .Gail Model breast cancer risk assessment program.

Breast Cancer Risk Assessment

The women of Pontiac will have the unique opportunity to find out their risk of developing breast cancer in the next five years and throughout their lifetime. This will give women at risk a definite advantage. Armed with the results of this short questionnaire, the woman will be directed to her physician to formulate a plan of care.

If the woman does not have a physician, she will be referred to a medical doctor who will provide service. No individual .will be denied care based on an inability to pay for services. If the plan of care includes a mammogram, all three hospitals will be offering reduced-rate mammograms or the referral may be made to the "Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program," which is funded through Title XV and may be free of charge.

Each woman who completes a Gail Model questionnaire will receive a flower, which will come with a thank you card from the City of Pontiac. The attached card will read: "Thank you for caring about your health."

Follow-Up Communication to Encourage Screening

The participants who complete the Gail Model will receive follow-up communication from the director of the Pontiac Health Initiative. First, the results of the Gail Model will be sent to each participant who completes the questionnaire. For individuals identified as being at risk and those identified as being at high risk, the second communication, in the form of a phone call, will occur in four weeks to determine if assistance is needed in navigating the medical system. For the same group of women, a third contact by phone will be made in another four weeks to determine what follow-up services were obtained.

Treatment

Should a woman require further diagnostic testing or treatment, all three hospitals participating in PHI have pledged that women will not go without care.

Future

In the future the Breast Cancer Awareness program will be offered every October. It .is believed that as this event is offered each year, the participation of the community will increase. Under Mayor Moore, with the three hospitals’ support, this event will continue to reach out to women, making a difference in their health status, their families, and the entire community.

For more information, please contact:

Diane Zalecki
Director, Care Management
Pontiac Health Initiative
telephone: 248/972-0630