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Keystone Mercy Health Plan Initiative Brings Cancer Screenings to Underserved Women in Their Communities

Gift for Life Program Addresses Fears Associated with Cancer Detection Exams by Providing Information and Support

Philadelphia, PA (Vocus) October 20, 2009 -- Keystone Mercy Health Plan, the largest Medical Assistance managed care organization in Pennsylvania, has provided preventive cancer detection screenings, including mammography and pap smear exams, to more than 2,100 women through its Gift for Life program, an initiative that supports underserved women in the Greater Philadelphia area, who have, either, never received a cancer screening or who have not been tested over a recent two-year period. The program, in existence since 2008, is designed to educate female Keystone Mercy members, who are 40 years of age or older, for mammograms, and to female members who are 18 and over, for pap smears, about the importance of these preventive yearly exams and increase routine screening rates.

A study conducted last year by Keystone Mercy Health Plan revealed that many underserved women do not receive recommended preventive health screenings, such as mammograms and pap smears, because of fears they associated with these tests. The majority of members disclosed that their fears included a positive diagnosis, having to endure painful tests and treatment or a fear that they could contract cancer through use of mammography machines.

Keystone Mercy Health Plan used this information to create the Gift for Life program which addresses those concerns by providing targeted health education to its members. Through its network of Gift for Life representatives, the program also provides support to members by attending screening sites, and offering to accompany them if a follow-up appointment is required. Representatives undergo a mandatory training with a cancer specialist to learn how to respond to members' concerns. They also alert members who need screenings, answer any questions members may have about the exam and assist in scheduling the screening at a location/event in close proximity to the member.

"Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in women in the United States, and that number climbs even higher for women who are receiving Medicaid," said Eric Berman, DO, chief medical officer, Keystone Mercy Health Plan. "Keystone Mercy wanted to understand more about the barriers our members face in order to ease their anxiety and enhance awareness of the importance of these tests. We have made impressive strides in increasing our screening rates, and will continue our commitment to educating and assisting the underserved."

Keystone Mercy Health Plan has partnered with local organizations, including Fox Chase Cancer Center Mobile Mammography Services, Lackawanna Mobile Diagnostic Services and Brown's Family ShopRite, to bring care to members in their own neighborhoods through use of mobile mammography units and specialized events. Members who complete the exams will also receive gift cards redeemable at ShopRite and Wal-Mart.

"Through our program, we educate our members on the importance of preventive care. We also establish an easy, accessible way for them to control their own health," said Maria Pajil Battle, senior vice president, Public Affairs and Marketing, Keystone Mercy Health Plan. "This program started with one goal in mind: To engage our female members by quelling their fears through educational guidance and resources. Our outreach team diligently works to care for our members, including making home visits and arranging transportation for their appointments."

Keystone Mercy Health Plan and its partners have conducted more than 50 health screenings and information sessions, over the last 12 months, and will continue to hold events from now until the end of the year, at the following locations:

Thursday, October 22, 2009
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Mercy Hospital of Philadelphia
501 South 54th Street

Thursday, October 29, 2009
12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Jefferson Methodist
2301 South Broad Street

Thursday, October 29, 2009
10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Women's Wellness Day
Hahnemann Hospital
201 N. Broad Street

Saturday, October 31, 2009
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Bible Way Baptist Church
1323 N. 52nd Street

Thursday, November 5, 2009
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Mercy Hospital of Philadelphia
501 South 54th Street

Thursday, November 12, 2009
12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Jefferson Methodist
2301 South Broad Street

Thursday, November 19, 2009
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Mercy Hospital of Philadelphia
501 South 54th Street

Thursday, December 3, 2009
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Mercy Hospital of Philadelphia
501 South 54th Street

Thursday, December 10, 2009
12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Jefferson Methodist
2301 South Broad Street

Thursday, December 17, 2009   
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Mercy Hospital of Philadelphia
501 South 54th Street

For more information or to register for a screening, Keystone Mercy Health Plan members should call 1-888-765-9585.

About Keystone Mercy Health Plan
Keystone Mercy Health Plan, a member of the AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies, is a Medical Assistance (Medicaid) managed care health plan serving more than 300,000 Medical Assistance recipients in southeastern Pennsylvania. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Keystone Mercy Health Plan is a mission-driven company dedicated to helping members get care, stay well, and build healthy communities. Its corporate parent partners are Mercy Health System and Keystone First. For more information about Keystone Mercy Health Plan, please visit

Sonya Evans-Johnson
Tel: 215-937-8369
Cell: 215-307-6903

Jennifer Chapple
Tel: 215-922-7184
Cell: 215-260-4767


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