Posted on Tue, Nov. 29, 2011 Call to action on cancer affecting women in Miami’s Little Haiti
The Miami Herald EditorialHeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com
Here’s a disheartening news flash:
Women in Miami’s Little Haiti are more likely to die of cervical cancer than any other minority or immigrant group in South Florida.
A recent survey by the University of Miami’s South Florida Center for Reducing Cancer Disparities (known as SUCCESS) found that only 42 percent of the women polled in Little Haiti reported getting a Pap smear within the last three years and 53 percent said they had never had one. Ever. Yet that’s a crucial test that can detect cervical cancer cells and, when found early enough, save lives.
By contrast, another group of women also surveyed — those in immigrant-heavy Hialeah where Cuban Americans are a majority — found that 75 percent of the women there had a Pap test in the past three years and nearly nine in 10 said they had a Pap smear at some point. Nationally, 84 percent of black women overall have had a Pap smear.
Those disparities and others will be among the issues discussed Wednesday during the fourth annual Breast & Cervical Cancer Conference at the Little Haiti Cultural Center (for details, call FANM at 305-756-8050).
The nonprofit community and human rights organization, Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, or Haitian Women of Miami, is sponsoring the event along with UM’s center. Scholarships are available for women who can’t pay the $30 conference fee to attend these life-saving seminars.
This year’s event, FANM’s executive director Marleine Bastien notes, is appropriately entitled “a call to action.” Two University of Miami doctors involved in women’s health issues — Dr. Jean-Baptiste L. Charlot and Dr. Erin Kobetz — also will be honored at the event.
Dr. Kobetz oversaw the study of Little Haiti women, which echo similar trends in breast cancer rates for Haitian women, who tend to get fewer, if any, breast exams compared to other ethnic and racial groups.
Why? It’s mostly simple economics but also a cultural tendency to overlook preventive health checks. A lack of health insurance and, to a lesser extent, fear by undocumented Haitians that a doctor would report their status to immigration officials, pose clear barriers.
At a time when national rates for cervical cancer deaths are dropping as more women get tested, Miami’s Little Haiti is seeing four times the national incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer.
Yet early testing and detection saves lives and healthcare dollars. A smart and frugal health policy would target Haitian women for exams and preventive care.
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