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20 years, Thousands of Lives Saved Through Prevention, Education and Early Detection

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Mary Bird Perkins’ Prevention on the Go program is a well-oiled machine, thanks to the team that visits communities nearly every day and community supporters who fund the organization’s prevention, education and early detection efforts. Three mobile medical units traverse Louisiana and southwest Mississippi, bringing free and convenient cancer screenings to residents who would otherwise be hard-pressed to find access to them, especially in some of the region’s most rural areas where healthcare resources are scarce.

In these two decades, a lot has changed in cancer treatment and preventative care, and the Cancer Center’s POGO services has remained a steady and welcome presence to many who rely on various community events for their routine screenings.

“I believe this program is beneficial for people because early detection is so important,” Tonya Truehill said in 2021.

Tonya received POGO’s 100,000th screening during a breast and colorectal screening event in Baton Rouge last year.

“I make it a point to receive my free breast cancer screening every year because of my family history of the disease,” she said. “I am extremely grateful to Mary Bird Perkins for offering these free screenings to our community and I know that they are saving lives.”

Stories like Tonya’s can be heard across the state. Since its inception POGO has conducted more than 106,000 free cancer screenings and detected more than 800 cancers.

“Mary Bird Perkins has been eliminating barriers to cancer screenings and meeting a dire need since POGO first launched,” Renea Duffin, vice president, cancer support and outreach, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, said. “As the program has grown, we have made progress in more communities, bringing a variety of cancer screenings to people facing various socioeconomic challenges, including lack of insurance and transportation issues. Just because someone has trouble accessing these resources, doesn’t mean they should go without; and for 20 years we’ve worked to reach the most vulnerable in the communities we’ve served.”

Adding to The Fleet

As the Cancer Center strives to reach even more communities, a new tool has hit the roads. This summer, healthcare leaders and state and local officials came together to unveil Mary Bird Perkins’ third mobile medical unit – a $1 million, state-of-the-art clinic on wheels. With the support of the state of Louisiana, Prevention on the Go expanded its screening capacity, meaning more preventative care in more communities. Dubbed the ‘Early Bird 3,’ this mobile unit is already making an impact with stops in numerous communities from Thibodaux to Monroe.

“With this newest mobile unit, awarded by a state grant, Mary Bird Perkins continues to demonstrate that we are working to fill the gap,” said Tokelia Richardson, mobile clinic driver and outreach coordinator, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer. “With Mary Bird’s history of helping the underserved, we are uniquely positioned to understand the challenges that population faces.”

Reaching into Rural Louisiana

Early Bird 3 will primarily serve residents across the 12-parish Delta Region in northeast Louisiana, where Mary Bird Perkins has focused its efforts in recent years. This rural region of the state is dotted with small towns where the nearest healthcare facility can be hours away, sometimes even across state lines. While the Cancer Center’s commitment to improving access here is nothing new, the scale at which it is able operate, has been boosted, culminating with the inaugural Live Well Delta event held on September 17.

(l-r) Congresswoman Julia Letlow, whose district includes the 12-parish Delta Region; Myra Gatling-Akers, Delta regional manager, early detection and education, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center; and Renea Duffin, vice president, cancer support and outreach, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, celebrate the launch of the Cancer Center’s third mobile medical unit at Live Well Delta, Saturday, September 17 in Monroe, La.

Live Well, Mary Bird Perkins’ signature community health event, has existed in Baton Rouge, Covington, Gonzales and Houma for a number of years. The street festival-style events feature free cancer screenings, biometric testing, food and educational resources.

Held at Monroe’s Civic Center Plaza, Live Well Delta successfully welcomed residents from across the Delta.

In total, 84 residents participated in 152 screenings for breast, colorectal, prostate and skin cancers. Of those screened, five required navigation for resolution of abnormal findings by a dedicated team of patient navigators; a very important step in ensuring patients are guided toward receiving follow-up care.

Access to underserved communities was highlighted at the event, with 56 percent of participants reporting being uninsured.

Even the 43 percent of participants with insurance suggests that even those who have the means don’t necessarily have convenient access to these critical services in their communities.

Live Well Delta also marked the first time many participants, 41 percent, were screened for cancer. Another 16 percent hadn’t been screened in more than three years.

“Seeing so many people from across northeast Louisiana take part in the very first Live Well Delta means there is a desire, and more importantly a need, for an increase in early detection resources there,” said Myra Gatling-Akers, Delta regional manager, early detection and education, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. “Our presence in this part of the state is providing a huge benefit to residents – and will prove to pay off for all of Louisiana as we work to improve our overall health.”

The Cancer Center’s Live Well series will continue to expand, with plans to host the inaugural Live Well Natchez event in 2023.

To take charge of your health and schedule your free, convenient cancer screenings at any Mary Bird Perkins event, visit pogo.marybird.com today.