AUSTIN, TX – CommUnityCare Health Centers has been selected, in conjunction with Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin, as the Grand Prize recipient of the 2023 80% in Every Community National Achievement Award. The honor singles out individuals and organizations for dedicating their time, talent, and expertise to advance colorectal cancer screening rates to 80% or higher across the United States in an equitable manner. The award is given by The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT), founded by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Through an innovative and collaborative partnership, CommUnityCare and Dell Med have made significant efforts to ensure more people in Central Texas, especially the underserved patients that CommUnityCare serves, get screened for colorectal cancer. In the United States, the lowest colorectal cancer screening rates occur among people with limited access to healthcare including those who are uninsured.

During its first year alone, the program doubled the percentage of patients screened for colorectal cancer from 18.4 to 37 percent. Currently, up to 44 percent of patients have been screened. The initiative has been made possible by multiple grants from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT).

“The success of this colorectal cancer screening initiative is in large part due to the help of our amazing partners at Dell Medical School,” said Dr. Nicholas Yagoda, Chief Medical Officer at CommUnityCare — the largest nonprofit community health center in Central Texas with 28 locations in and around Austin. “Our shared vision to help underserved populations has improved the health outcomes among our most vulnerable patients. We are honored to receive this grand prize in collaboration with Dell Med.”

“Our partnership with CommUnityCare has helped numerous patients get screened, and has been implemented in a way that improves health care equity,” said Michael Pignone, M.D., MPH, chair of Dell Med’s Department of Internal Medicine, Co-Program Leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control program at the Livestrong Cancer Institutes, and Program Leader for the CPRIT awards.

In 2017, Pignone spearheaded a collaborative team with members from Dell Med and CommUnityCare to launch a program that mails colorectal cancer screening tests, known as fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), directly to patients’ homes. The screening kits are supplemented with low-cost text message and letter reminders to prompt patients to return the test. For those patients who screen positive, a CommUnityCare bilingual patient educator and navigator offers resources and support through the process of completing a colonoscopy, as recommended by the US Preventive Services Task Force.

The impactful and cost-effective program was implemented throughout CommUnityCare Health Centers, offering a new way for patients to get screened for colorectal cancer, potentially lessen the number of colorectal cancers, and lighten the burden of treatment. Finding cancers early improves prognosis and saves lives.

The program has subsequently been expanded to other systems in Central Texas. Efforts are ongoing in Texas and across the country to disseminate similar programs to other health systems, especially for underserved populations facing financial barriers and limited access to these critical preventive services.

Join CommUnityCare and Dell Med on March 23, 2023 from 1-2 P.M. CT for the March 2023 Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month Webcast to learn more about the ongoing efforts in the Colorectal Cancer Screening Program and to celebrate the program’s success.