Twenty years ago, Susan G. Komen Columbus’ attention was on screening — working to ensure women got mammograms to detect breast cancer early. Today, the organization, which invests 75 percent of its net income to support local breast health services in its 30-county service area, takes a focused approach to metastatic breast cancer and health equity.
“Where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live from breast cancer,” Executive Director Katie Carter says.
People know Komen Columbus by the Race for the Cure, and the nonprofit appreciates the community and corporate support. But that’s only part of what it does, says Carter.
“We also are serving our community by saving lives through our research, and our community advocacy work and care,” Carter says. “How do you get across to people that we’re more than a race or a walk, that we are doing so much more in our community to save lives from breast cancer?”
Komen Columbus has invested — and continues to invest — in its mission work through navigators and community health workers, while working with hospital systems and other nonprofits. For instance, Worship in Pink, a health program for congregations of all faiths, works to increase breast cancer awareness and link women to resources.
Reaching the right communities
Komen Columbus hopes to make a targeted impact by putting people in the community to help women in the ZIP codes where breast cancer deaths are highest, Carter says. These high-risk populations need education and help getting into the continuum of care so they are screened, diagnosed and treated.
“We all know that it can be difficult to navigate the health care system — what questions to ask and making sure that you’re getting the same care that somebody else would,” she says.
In Franklin County, for example, African-American women have a 40 percent higher death rate from breast cancer than white women, Carter says. A Komen Columbus navigator, therefore, is dedicated to helping that population gain access to quality breast health care.
Transportation is another barrier to care, not only in the Central Ohio but also in Southeastern Ohio. Komen Columbus collaborates with other nonprofits to get women — and men — the services they need.
“The ultimate goal is to saves lives and reduce the number of people dying of breast cancer, and we feel very strongly that we can do that by being in these communities and providing all these resources,” Carter says.
Race for the Cure
While Komen Columbus wants to be known for more than the Komen Columbus Race for the Cure®, its event is still critical. The fundraiser for breast cancer research is the largest race for the cure in the country with more than 21,000 participants.
Since 1993, Komen Columbus has used those funds to invest more than $33 million in community breast health programs in its 30-county service area. Susan G. Komen also has invested more than $13.5 million in breast cancer research in Ohio and $899 million in global research.
The 2020 event will be held Saturday, May 16.