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She Matters celebrates its tenth year

She Matters, the peer-to-peer community outreach program established by Upstate Cancer Center to reduce breast cancer disparities in underserved women, celebrated its 10th anniversary with a gathering of volunteer community health workers and other supporters.

Trained and supported by the Upstate Cancer Center, community health workers (CHW) provide breast health education, offer support from navigation to screening mammography, and improve access to necessary diagnostic and treatment services. The goal is to eliminate health care barriers, change behavior and make annual breast cancer screening a priority.

When the program began, its main focus was to ensure women living in the Syracuse Housing Authority had no barriers to getting life-saving mammograms. Over the years, the program has grown, reaching more than 10,000 women and coordinating more than 1,100 mammograms.

She Matters is everywhere, too. The program’s calendar is dotted with dates to appear here and there, such as the Mary Nelson’s Youth Day BBQ, the New York State Fair, Syracuse Crunch games, and many more. The program’s vivid pink tent is easily seen anywhere it's pitched. Under the tent, CHW and She Matters staffers are dispensing medical information and offering opportunities to sign up for mammograms.

Another benefit of the program is its ability to provide on-the-spot mammograms when partnering with Upstate’s Mobile Mammography Van.

“A key element of our program since its inception is to break down barriers that can prevent women, for whatever reason, from getting important breast cancer screening,” said Program Coordinator Rachel Osiecki. “We’ve succeeded at that, and we’ve also made inroads through our health information efforts.”

Osiecki said at least one in three women who received their first mammograms thanks to She Matters are now getting subsequent mammograms without any assistance from the program.

Funders see the benefit of the program, too. Many organizations, some giving to Upstate for the first time, have supported the program since its creation, awarding more than $640,000 in support. Among those providing funding are United Health Care, Kay Yow Cancer Fund, Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation, American Cancer Society, Excellus, AstraZeneca, MACYS, Syracuse Crunch Foundation, CNY Community Foundation, Women's Fund, of CNY and Adam Weitsman's CNY Tuesday.

The Susan G. Komen organization was one of the first to recognize the impressive outreach opportunities of She Matters, contributing more than $200,000 in grant support since 2014.

“They’ve been great partners,” said Upstate Assistant Vice President of Community Relations and She Matters Founder Linda Veit, MPH. “We could not have started this program without them. They have believed in our mission from the beginning.”

Ongoing support for She Matters comes from Upstate Medical University, Syracuse Housing Authority, The Healthy Neighbors Partnership and Upstate’s Office of the President. Additional support comes from the Upstate departments of Radiology, the Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Program, the College of Medicine, the Upstate Cancer Center and the Upstate Foundation.

Caption: Volunteer Community Health Workers, outside Upstate University Hospital, are a key part of the success of She Matters, as they provide women with breast health education, offer support from navigation to screening mammography, and improve access to necessary diagnostic and treatment services.