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Cancer Advocacy Project Fosters Community Partnerships to Serve Minority Groups

by CBJC Staff December 17, 2013

When faced with a cancer diagnosis, priorities shift and patients find themselves in unfamiliar territory on many levels. A workplace that has been a second home for many years can suddenly feel less secure when asking for time off for surgery and ongoing treatment. The quality of one’s health insurance is put to the test and medical costs can balloon. A health crisis can also trigger a desire to ensure that one’s wishes are documented in life-planning documents. Acquiring the vital information necessary to deal with these matters can take considerable effort under any circumstances, so for those dealing with a serious illness, the toll is greater. For minority populations, there are often additional impediments that result from more limited access to resources and, for some, a language barrier.

With support from the Greater New York City Affiliate of Susan G. Komen® and Judges and Lawyers Breast Cancer Alert (JALBCA), the City Bar Justice Center’s Cancer Advocacy Project (CAP) is meeting this challenge in the Latino community on a number of fronts. The project has fostered close partnerships with Latino community groups and, with them, has organized a number of community presentations for support groups. The events are conducted in Spanish and offer the groups a chance to learn about important issues that affect them as cancer patients, survivors, or caregivers. Audiences have been very appreciative of the information they receive through these forums, including medical-debt and life-planning issues. On a wider scale, CAP has conducted presentations and workshops on these and other topics for communities and health care providers throughout New York City.

In addition, CAP has created a series of user-friendly guides on a number of topics of relevance to cancer patients and survivors. Of these, three have been translated into Spanish: A Simple Guide to Advance Directives and Estate Planning, A Guide to Medical Debt: Your Rights and Options, and A Guide to Funeral and Burial Options in NY.  It is anticipated that this will be expanded over time so that all materials are available in Spanish.

CAP seeks to offer information to the Latino community in a safe and supportive setting where participants are able to receive information and share information specific to their own situation.  Most recently, in November, CAP conducted a medical-debt presentation at Beth Israel Comprehensive Cancer Center during LatinaSHARE’s monthly support group meeting. As is often the case during these presentations, the participants were surprised to learn of their rights with regard to dealing with medical bills and debt collectors. They left the session feeling more empowered and confident in their abilities to navigate these processes.

CAP is eager to continue its community partnerships in 2014 to focus further on assisting the Latino population in this manner.

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