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The Susan G. Komen organization launched a $27 million, 10-city initiative to reduce breast cancer death rates among African-American women.

They announced the health equity initiative on Wednesday, September 14 in conjunction with philanthropic, civic, medical and business leaders at Abraham Lincoln Hall in Southeast.

“African-American women are almost 40 percent more likely to die of breast cancer than white women in the U.S. and in some cities, that number is as high as 74 percent,” Komen President and CEO Dr. Judith A. Salerno said.

“That makes this a public health crisis that must be addressed immediately. We are deeply appreciative of friends and partners who are working with us to do so.”

The Fund II Foundation gave the group a $27 million grant making the Komen African-American Health Equity Initiative possible.

“This investment in women’s health will truly save lives,” Salerno said.

Robert F. Smith, president, Fund II Foundation, said that the breast cancer initiative ties strongly to his groups priorities.

“The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King said that the biggest injustice one can find is really in health care,” he stated. “The Fund II Foundation is focused on — among a number of pillars — helping to decrease that disparity and level the playing field in health care and treatment for African-American women.”

Komen’s initiative will start with 10 U.S. cities where mortality rates and late-stage diagnosis of Black women are the highest.

Those cities include Memphis, St. Louis, Dallas, Los Angeles, Virginia Beach, Va., Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

Baltimore and Detroit have also been identified as high-priority areas as the program expands over the next year.

Komen claims the goal is to reduce the mortality gap by 25 percent within five years of beginning work in each city.

In the coming months the initiative will expand across the country.

Jeri Lacks Whye, patient advocate and granddaughter of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cancer cells were taken without her permission before her death in 1951, and used for research for decades joined Smith and Salerno in the announcement.

“Community engagement is the foundation that allows you to speak with people suffering from breast cancer disparities,” she said. “It starts a conversation that can lead to real results.”

Komen asserted in a statement that the organization has invested more than $2 billion over 34 years for programs aimed at uninsured, underinsured and medically vulnerable populations.

“We will never waver from our commitment to remove barriers of language, geography, economics or culture for all people facing this disease,” Salerno said.

“Every woman or man must be able to access and receive high-quality breast health and breast cancer care, and be supported through their treatment and into survivorship.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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