The Kraft Center for Community Health at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), in partnership with the Trefler Foundation, today announce and celebrate recipients of the inaugural Trefler Cancer Care Equity Grants. Three local community health centers - Charles River Community HealthCodman Square Health Center and the Dimock Center - will each be awarded $50,000 to launch innovative projects aimed at reducing inequities in cancer care among vulnerable populations. The Trefler Cancer Care Equity Grants will enable community health centers to implement novel and sustainable strategies to eliminate barriers to cancer screening and treatment for underserved populations.

“We are committed to finding new and out-of-the-box solutions to eliminate cancer disparities. Through these awards we are partnering with community health centers and supporting their use of new technologies to improve cancer screening and rates of follow-up for treatment to improve outcomes for the patients they serve,” says Elsie Taveras, MD, MPH, executive director of The Kraft Center.

There are significant cancer-related inequities – in diagnosis, treatment and mortality – among traditionally marginalized populations, including: those who are homeless, have a mental illness, live in poverty, or belong to a racial or ethnic minority. Statewide, the prevalence of cancer is 45.68 per 1,000 people. In contrast, averages range from 60 to 106 per 1,000 in Greater Boston. The significance of these inequities creates an urgency to find and spread best practices and innovative solutions.

The awardees were selected from a competitive pool of applicants based on their proposed approaches to reducing cancer disparities. “Current cancer screening and treatment pathways do not adequately address the social determinants of health and cultural barriers that Latino patients face. Our proposed project will address barriers to care by testing text messaging to more effectively communicate with this population to encourage and assist with breast and cervical screening education and care,” says Elizabeth Browne, executive director of Charles River Community Health. “Our project will use patient navigation and the CareMessage text messaging platform to assist us in accomplishing this goal.”

The Dimock Center, another awardee, will bring point-of-care technology in-house to enable patients to receive cancer screening services where they would have otherwise had to refer to specialty care. “Our core mission is to heal, uplift and strengthen our continuum of care for all people. The Trefler Cancer Care Equity award will help Dimock continue in this mission by enabling us to provide innovative cancer care and increase our capacity to provide effective cancer prevention to our patients and families. These advancements will further mitigate the barriers for accessible cancer care health systems and patient engagement within our community.” says Dr. Nandini Sengupta, MD, medical director of Health Services of The Dimock Center.

The Codman Square Health Center will combine targeted text message reminders with an advertising campaign to engage and increase awareness among patients and community members about cancer screening initiatives.

The Kraft Center and Trefler Foundation have worked together since 2015 to address inequities in cancer care. With support from Pam and Alan Trefler, the Kraft Center launched the Trefler Program for Cancer Care Equity to promote early screening, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the most marginalized of vulnerable populations. The Kraft Center has funded multiple research projects aimed at reducing disparities including MGH Cancer Center initiatives to decrease the financial burden of clinical trial participation for racial and ethnic minority patients and provide patient navigation support for individuals with behavioral health needs. Additionally, a previous award is supporting a collaboration of the MGH Cancer Center and Boston Medical Center (BMC) to provide cancer-specific support and education to community health center clinicians to reduce barriers in access for quality cancer care.

“We established the Kraft Center for Community Health to make sure that everyone, regardless of their income or zip code, could have good access to medical care. These awards will help promote early detection and diagnosis of cancer in communities with modest incomes so that people in those communities are given the best chance at beating this disease,” says Robert K. Kraft, chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group and Founder of The Kraft Center. “We are very happy to be partnering as a team with the Trefler Family who share our strong commitment to improving early cancer detection and with the local community health centers to support their work in this area.”

“As someone who has personally benefitted from early cancer detection, these grants that will allow us to get more people in for cancer screenings and are incredibly important in our efforts to make good healthcare available to everyone no matter what your zip code may be,” says Pamela Trefler, says founder and chairperson of the Trefler Foundation.

Awardees will be honored at the Trefler Foundations 20th Anniversary Celebration on Thursday, September 27 and will begin project implementation in October 2018.  These grants fund one year of program development, and each awardee has developed a plan to ensure the projects are sustainable beyond the pilot funding.

“We are so grateful to the Kraft Center and the Trefler Foundation for the opportunity to use innovative tools for reducing colorectal cancer screening disparities,” says Rachel Hindin, MD in Internal Medicine at the Codman Square Health Center. “We are excited to use new technology and new ways of communicating with patients.”

For more information about the Trefler Cancer Care Equity Grants, visit www.kraftcommunityhealth.org/.