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Spotlight on Innovation: Increasing Cancer Health Literacy and Promoting Early Screening in Southwest Virginia

In a new weekly feature, n4a will highlight the cutting-edge programs and successful strategies of our 2017 Aging Innovation Award Winners. Our first profile shines a spotlight on Mountain Empire Older Citizens, Inc. (MEOC), winner in the Health-LTSS Integration category, for increasing cancer health literacy and promoting early screening.

During n4a's 2017 Annual Conference and Tradeshow, the top four highest-scoring Innovations winners won cash awards thanks to the generous support of AIA sponsor WellCare Health Plans. Naming MEOC the first place winner, n4a presented the agency with a check for $2,000.


To address the high incidence of cervical cancer in rural Appalachia, MEOC, the University of Virginia School of Nursing and the U.Va. Cancer Center joined together to study the feasibility of using at-home self-collection for HPV testing in far southwest Virginia and to offer “Understanding Cancer” trainings throughout the community.

To carry out the study, local women working as MEOC personal care aides for the elderly were trained to be lay navigators to contact other local women to participate in the self collection, meeting them at their homes to explain the process and mail the samples back to the U.Va. Cancer Center.

The initiative positively impacted a significant number of local aides and community members with 641 people successfully completing the "Understanding Cancer" training in 2016. These individuals went on to offer 366 community group presentations and 64 lay navigators were trained in the Cervical Cancer Control project. Personal care aides distributed 103 self-collection kits and mailed 46 kits to U. Va for processing, identifying seven women with positive test results and connecting them to appropriate medical resources.

To learn more about this year's winners, be sure to read our press release and check out our book of winners!

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