Atlantic Health is one of 51 institutions across the country — and the only one in New Jersey — to be selected for the cohort, which is tasked with driving quality improvement processes and interventions in order to deliver cancer screenings appropriately, safely and equitably during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
The $80,000 grant will be divided among four Atlantic Health sites.
“We are honored to be the first New Jersey health system to be selected for this critically needed initiative,” Lydia Nadeau, executive director, Atlantic Health System Cancer Care, said. “We were chosen due to our commitment, focus and success in raising awareness about the need for continued cancer screening during the pandemic through our Cancer Hides campaign, as well as through our long-time #AskHer breast cancer awareness campaign.”
In addition to funding, as part of Atlantic Health System’s involvement in the RTS initiative, the system will receive coaching and implementation support from trained American Cancer Society strategic partnership staff; access to the latest in messaging, research and tools, and connection to health systems in other states to share promising practices and challenges.
Measures of success for this initiative include: minimizing the effects of the pandemic on breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening; addressing disparities and reducing barriers to screening exacerbated by the pandemic; creating learning communities to foster best practice sharing; and executing long-lasting, sustainable and meaningful processes.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, elective medical procedures across the country, including cancer screening, were largely put on hold to prioritize urgent needs and reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19 in health care settings. One consequence of this has been an immediate and substantial decline in cancer screening. In response, ACS started the RTS initiative to support public health agencies, health care providers and screening advocates across the nation to promote and deliver cancer screening appropriately, safely and equitably during the COVID-19 pandemic.
About Atlantic Health System Cancer Care
Atlantic Health System Cancer Care offers a network of cancer specialists and resources through its flagship Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown and Overlook medical centers, as well as its comprehensive oncology programs at Chilton, Hackettstown and Newton medical centers. With more than 250 cancer specialists and medical professionals, all five hospitals and Atlantic Medical Group have been recognized nationally for their role in advancing the fight against cancer.
“Cancer Hides” was developed following a review of messaging used by national and local brands, staff and patient interviews, consumer interviews and a survey of New Jersey consumers about their understanding of cancer and willingness to get preventative care. More than half of the consumers surveyed felt that it was alright to delay cancer screening until after the pandemic.
The campaign, which launched in February 2021 to coincide with Cancer Prevention Month, uses both traditional and nontraditional media, as well as unique placements. The goal of the campaign is to encourage both men and women to speak with their physicians about cancer screenings, particularly mammograms, as well as colorectal screenings, lung cancer screenings and pap smears, among others. Vulnerable populations are being targeted in the campaign, and messaging is culturally appropriate and in both English and Spanish.
In addition, the #AskHer public awareness campaign is designed to increase awareness of the importance of breast cancer screenings and to encourage women in our community to schedule their annual mammograms. It is also a call to action for all individuals to have this important conversation with the women in their lives. The campaign employs a mix of public service announcements and educational tactics, including commercials, social media messages, direct mail, radio and physician seminars. When this campaign launched six years ago, Atlantic Health System made it easier for women to book mammogram appointments online at convenient times and locations throughout our communities.
Today, women can choose from 10 locations and use the appointment portal 24 hours a day, seven days a week to schedule daytime, evening and weekend appointments. It has had an incredible impact on prevention and screening in our community. More than 7,000 mammogram appointments were requested in the month of October 2021 alone as a result of the #AskHer campaign. In addition, in October 2021, Atlantic Health System experienced a 50% increase in online mammogram appointments scheduled as compared to the same period in 2020.