Mayor Douglass H. Palm

BraVa Cooperative and "Stitch in Time"

In achieving his priority for Trenton women to have the promise of early detection, Mayor Palmer has relied extensively on .the BRaVa Cooperative. Fully backed by .the mayor, this coalition provides breast and cervical cancer screening and follow-up care to economically disadvantaged minority women in the Trenton area. African American and Hispanic women were the first groups targeted by BRaVa in 1995. Now the four-year-old program has been expanded to reach the Haitian and Polish immigrant communities. All these groups have been focused upon because it is known that minority women die of breast cancer at a higher rate than non-minority women. BRaVa screened 350 women last year in Trenton, giving them the opportunity Mayor Palmer envisioned upon taking office – to get screening that would lead to early detection and treatment of breast cancer.

Funding for the BRaVa Cooperative comes through the New Jersey Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Initiative, a program of .the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. Members of BRaVa are .the Capital Health System at Mercer (lead agency); St. Francis Medical Center; and the City of Trenton, Division of Health. .All screenings are performed at the Capital Health System or St. Francis, with outreach workers based at these two medical centers. The City of Trenton Division of Health has been involved in BRaVa since its inception through nursing representation at the cooperative’s general meetings and administrative/planning sessions.

City Promotes Awareness

The Trenton Division of Health has reflected the mayor’s emphasis upon awareness. Most recently, the division received a four thousand dollar grant in January 1999 to provide breast cancer prevention education to four hundred female senior citizens and two hundred women, aged 20 to 35, who visit the city’s health clinic. Public health nurses use videos, breast models, and literature to teach women about breast cancer, mammography, and breast self-examinations (BSE). They also help women .make appointments for mammograms. Participating women are given BSE shower cards and a lovely tube of body lotion as incentives. In October a Breast Cancer Awareness Month street fair was held on the Trenton Commons, a center-city pedestrian mall. Here again, women were given the opportunity to learn about breast .cancer, mammography, and BSE.

Best Practice: "A Stitch in Time"

The City of Trenton’s nomination for ."best practice" is "A Stitch in Time," a twelve minute dramatic presentation developed by Sandra Hartnett, R.N., M.S.N., A.O.C.N., of Capital Health System at Mercer, who is program manager for the BRaVa Cooperative. Based on the adage ."a stitch in time saves nine," this short play was originally developed to target African American women. A young woman and her elderly mother are seen working on a family quilt together. The daughter’s discovery that her mother has never had a mammogram creates an opportunity to address common myths about breast cancer detection and treatment.

Response to this family-oriented, humorous play has been overwhelmingly positive. Women want to discuss the play after they have seen it, and often are willing to share their own experiences with mammography and/or breast cancer. Mayor Palmer and his mother also have attended performances to encourage women to seek mammography and to share their experiences with members of the audiences. Because the play requires only two performers, it .is relatively easy to schedule and offer at senior citizen centers, churches, health .fairs, and at private residences.

The play has been translated into Spanish and is currently being translated into Polish. It has also been videotaped, which allows it to be presented even more frequently. Though it was originally acted by volunteers, a switch to professional actresses has increased the quality of the play tremendously. African American and Hispanic actresses are used in the two versions of the play existing at this time.

For more information, please contact:

Barbara Piepszak, R.N., B.S.N.
Supervisor of Health Promotions and Clinical Services
City of Trenton Division of Health
609/989-3636, ext. 113