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The seven-week program is a joint effort with local health organizations, churches

STONY BROOK, N.Y., September 25, 2006 – High incidence and death rates from cancer and other diseases that strike African Americans has prompted the Stony Brook University Cancer Center to partner with local health organizations and churches to run a Public Health Awareness Campaign this fall. The seven-week campaign runs through October 29 and is carried out by nine churches in Suffolk County. The campaign encourages African Americans to learn more about disparities in healthcare, early detection and treatment of diseases, and to get regular check-ups.

The churches are distributing pledge cards to prompt members to receive check-ups or have someone assist them in doing that. This part of the campaign is modeled after the "Take a Loved One for a Check-up" Program, a national initiative of the Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

"It is important that we close the health gap that exists in communities of color," says Martin S. Karpeh, M.D., Director of the Stony Brook University Cancer Center. “We have to find better ways to get health messages into these communities, and our campaign can help do that.”

Dr. Karpeh says that as a result of disparities in health care, many patients are dying from preventable and treatable diseases. He cites two of many facts that illustrate the need for more patient health education and screening in minority communities – African American men have the highest rate of prostate cancer in America, and the five-year survival rate for African American women with breast cancer is lower than that of any other racial group.

The campaign is supported by numerous organizations in Suffolk County, including the Office of Minority Health at the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Diabetes Association, American Stroke Association, and the Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island. Representatives from these organizations are working with the Cancer Center to select relevant health and screening information provided throughout the campaign.

"By uniting our efforts, we believe we can help generate a greater understanding of the importance of regular health screenings while at the same time focus on those populations that tend to have the least access to healthcare," says Margaret Davis, Manager, Community Outreach at the Cancer Center.

Disseminating health and screening information to its members are the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) churches in Babylon, Bay Shore, Copiague, and Setauket; Trinity AME Church in Smithtown; First AME Church in Wyandanch; First Baptist Church of Riverhead; Grace Community Ministries in Amityville, and St. Mary’s AME Zion Church in Medford.

For more information, call the Stony Brook University Cancer Center Community Outreach office at 631-444-7789.

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