Miami Herald (01.04.12) - Friday, January 06, 2012
The community group Partners in Action (PIA) works to fight
high rates of cervical and breast cancer among women in
Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood. Five years ago, when the
group was launched, many women there were not accessing
preventive screening or medical care in time.
In 2007, three community health workers of Haitian descent,
fluent in Creole and English, were hired to survey Little
Haiti women. After intensive training in survey techniques,
the workers administered a rapid, 15-item questionnaire to
women in casual settings, such as laundries and grocery
stores. Of 1,000 women approached, 94 percent agreed to
Only 67 percent of the women over age 18 had ever gotten a Pap
smear, and just 44 percent had one within the previous three
years. Cultural barriers and the lack of easy testing access,
money, and health insurance prevented the women from getting
"A lot of them aren't qualified for Medicaid because they're
not documented," said Marleine Bastien, founder of Haitian
Women of Miami. Her group partnered with Dr. Erin Kobetz, of
the University of Miami School of Medicine, and the UM South
Florida Center for Reducing Cancer Disparities, to create PIA.
A subsequent survey found neighborhood women also were far
less likely than other women to have heard about human
papillomavirus and cervical cancer.
"We realized that even if we opened a free clinic where
everyone could get a Pap smear, women weren't going to come,"
Now the team's health workers are offering women a self-sample
collection kit for cervical cancer screening. It comes with a
cartoon flip-chart that explains the need for testing and how
to use the kit. The women can use the kit in private, while a
health worker waits to send the sample to UM labs for testing.
So far, 97 percent of women approached have agreed to test.