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Winning the Fight Against Cancer... One Screening at a Time

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This article was originally featured in Giving magazine, a publication for employees and select partners of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.

The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation and the American Cancer Society (ACS) in South Carolina are joining forces to fight cancer.

A grant from the Foundation will allow the ACS to launch a 12-month learning collaborative. It will support safety-net clinics as they increase prevention efforts and HPV vaccination rates.

The two-dose HPV vaccine prevents seven types of cancer, with cervical cancer being the most common. South Carolina ranks 35th in the nation for HPV vaccination completion.

The Foundation first joined the ACS to change that number in 2018. Its first grant to the ACS helped increase second-dose HPV vaccinations at 27 clinics by 12 percent. This means 1,588 more South Carolinians now have increased protection from cancers caused by HPV.

Inspired by the first grant's success, both groups are moving forward with a new learning collaborative. The ACS will provide safety-net clinics with enhanced training and other resources specific to prevention and screening interventions. These clinics, in turn, will be able to reach more patients who struggle to access care.

The collaborative will target cancers that frequent screenings can best prevent. These include cervical and colon cancers and those caused by HPV. It will also create space for members to learn about the barriers some people face when they try to access care. Members will explore how to improve these people's outcomes by connecting them to preventative services.

A key part of the ACS training will be online bootcamp that will focus on quality improvement. Many safety-net clinics do not have staff that are trained in quality improvement. This project will provide them with skills and expertise from a certified ACS clinical quality team. The staff will learn to resolve issues and improve outcomes. 

The collaborative will foster teamwork between its members. Clinic staff will take part in monthly online check-ins. These meetings will give them the chance to talk to experts at other clinics across South Carolina. Staff will ask questions, gain feedback and learn from each other.

Erika Kirby, executive director of the Foundation, is excited by the collaborative's potential to close gaps in care and save lives.

"We are excited to partner with the American Cancer Society in South Carolina to support a learning collaborative of safety-net health providers focused on highly preventable cancers," said Kirby. "We are pleased to support this multisite collaboration to address disparities in care and to increase adoption of standards of care focused on earlier detection and prevention."

Kirby also mentioned that the data gleaned from the collaborative's efforts could be useful with other efforts in South Carolina that support prevention and early detection of cancers and the connection to chronic health conditions.