University of Miami, Haitian Community health workers team up to address breast cancer

December 05, 2015

Statistics show that 45% of Haitian women with breast cancer were diagnosed in late stages of the disease, compared with 44% of black women and 34% of white women.

Erin Kobetz, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, in 2004 established a community advisory board to address the issue, and local Haitian community leaders helped her determine how to study breast cancer among Haitian women and how to ask the women questions in a culturally sensitive manner.

Community health workers are trying to reach 1,500 Haitian women to ask them about mammograms and breast cancer.

According to preliminary findings, some women have received mammograms because they were ordered by their physicians, while others have never had a mammogram because it is not one of their main health concerns.

In addition, some women reported traditional beliefs about health care, including use of herbal medicine and the belief that illness is an expression of Voodoo.

Larry Pierre, executive director of the Center for Haitian Studies, Health and Human Services, said, "We just have to explain to people that just because you don't see a disease, you can't skip prevention."

Cuerna Blot, vice president of the Haitian American Nurses Association, said, "People have changed their minds about screening because of family and friends who have died from breast cancer. Women should not have to die of something they can prevent" (Valdemoro, Miami Herald, 3/8).

This article is republished with kind permission from our friends at the The Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery of in-depth coverage of health policy developments, debates and discussions. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for Kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.