The Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University is on a team of cancer care providers that received a five-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the amount of $795,560 per year to provide colorectal screening, education, navigation and colonoscopies to 15,000 Georgians.
The Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education will provide administrative and fiscal oversight for the program, and the services will be provided by the Georgia Cancer Center and three cancer care providers in the Albany area, Albany Area Primary Care, Horizons Community Solutions, and Phoebe Putney Health System, as well as designated Federally Qualified Health Centers throughout southeast and southwest Georgia.
“Georgia CORE works to leverage state and federal dollars to advance cancer care for all Georgians, and data show that rural and African American residents have higher incidence and mortality rates from colorectal cancer,” said Nancy M. Paris, MS, FACHE, and president and CEO of Georgia CORE. “With our national health care system currently being overtaxed, this opportunity couldn’t have been more timely. The CDC grant will support essential cancer education, screening and navigation services for those Georgians who need it the most, and we will save lives.”
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cancer killer in Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, but also one of the state’s five most preventable. The defined patient population who will receive these free prevention services through the CDC grant are between the ages of 50 and 75, below the federal poverty level, ineligible for Medicaid, Medicare or ACA and receive care in one of the FQHCs.
“With a state incidence rate that exceeds the national average, we know we have to be more aggressive with our prevention measures for colorectal cancer, particularly in rural Georgia, where screening is much less common,” explained Jorge Cortes, MD and director of the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University.
Earning the CDC award reflects the strong partnership between Georgia CORE and AU. In addition to Cortes’ leadership in the colorectal screening program, AU’s Dr. Sharad Ghamande and Dr. Anand Jillella are board members of Georgia CORE.
Published by Georgia CORE earlier this year, the report 5 Actions to Save More Lives cites that in the late 1990s, only half of Georgians 50 and older were screened for colorectal cancer. That rate is now 66%, while the Healthy People 2020 target goal is 85%. If Georgia were to reach this goal, a projected 8,800 lives would be saved, and health care costs would lower by $1.3 billion.