Rural Health Group Certifies Lay Health Advisers for Breast Cancer Outreach (October 2016)

The Breast Cancer Awareness workforce in the Roanoke Valley has recently been strengthened with the addition of eight new community based volunteers.

The Rural Health Group sponsored training to certify volunteer lay health advisers as a part of breast cancer outreach expansion. The training curriculum for the program was adapted by the N.C. Breast Cancer Screening Program. The course included an orientation session and major instructional sessions on four major topics: Anatomy, continuum of care, advising skills and resources. The classes provided research-based lessons, hands-on activities, materials review, resource panel and discussion sessions.

Lay health advisers are community volunteers who are trained non-professionals, equipped to provide information and support to women in their communities in an effort to lower breast cancer death rates. They are available to coordinate and conduct presentations at churches, businesses and community events, counsel survivors, provide evidence-based information about screening and services. They are trusted confidants who are active in church, community and civic organizations in the Rural Health Group service area. Although LHAs are not equipped to offer medical advice or social services, they can offer information on services available through area health care providers.

These women volunteer for the program because they care about women and want to save lives by raising awareness of the importance of early detection of cancer. The role of lay health adviser is a vital role that could possibly reach the hard-to-reach women, or those of greatest risk. Their goal is to have all eligible women get annual mammograms. Helping women learn the steps to early detection, encouraging them to establish themselves with a medical care home, encouraging communication with providers, taking steps to get screened and getting access to services are critical to supporting women along the breast cancer continuum of care. Encouraging more eligible women to get mammograms should reduce the breast cancer mortality rates for women. Statistics indicate one out of every eight women in America will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. However, 95-98 percent of women diagnosed who have early detection and treatment can survive.

LHA volunteers have information regarding the latest breast cancer screening guidelines and will be able to share that information with audiences, as well as discuss the importance of being able to communicate with your provider to establish risk, which will determine when one is recommended to begin getting the annual breast screening.

Members of the class will continue to receive quarterly updates to receive information on the latest research, new or improved services and outreach opportunities for informing and supporting women about breast cancer.

Project funding was provided by the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade Project at the Rural Health Group and the Roanoke Valley Breast Cancer Coalition.

Partnering organizations that also participated in teaching and facilitating the training include the Roanoke Valley Breast Cancer Coalition, Halifax Regional Medical Center, Rural Health Group Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program, Halifax Public Health System, Northampton County Health Department, the Poe Center of Raleigh, Halifax Regional Diabetes Education Program and Mammography Center. Halifax County Community College and Garysburg Town Recreation Center provided classroom and activity space for the training sessions.

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