Increasing Colorectal Cancer Screening and Hope in Chicago’s Southwest Side Neighborhoods

Erica Childs Warner | Published on April 26, 2016

Updated on February 13, 2018

Increasing Colorectal Cancer Screening and Hope in Chicago’s Southwest Side Neighborhoods

esperanza2In Chicago’s Little Village and Chicago Lawn neighborhoods, Esperanza Health Centers, a Prevent Cancer Foundation grantee, is working to improve colorectal cancer screening rates among uninsured, insured and Medicaid-enrolled Latino adults, through coordinated patient navigation, education and screening services.

Esperanza’s project goal is to improve the colorectal cancer screening rate in their community from 48 percent to 60 percent by July 2016, and it expects to provide colorectal education and screening to at least 1,000 patients ages 51 to 80 through the funded project.

This community grantee aims to achieve their goal by providing patient navigation, education, and screening services for patients through the efforts of Care Coordinators (pictured) who will connect uninsured patients to free FIT testing, an at-home screening test that looks for blood in stool, which can be an early sign of cancer. In addition, they will guide insured patients through an open colonoscopy process provided at a partnering hospital. As of March, the colorectal cancer screening rate has increased to 51 percent.

“Colorectal Cancer Screening remains one of the most challenging population health measures to improve. With support from the Prevent Cancer Foundation, we’ve been able to implement a team based approach focusing on care coordination, education and data reporting enhancements,” reported Carmen Vergara, MPH, Director of Quality Improvement and Patient Transformation. “We have access to robust quality reporting after switching electronic medical record systems and have seen an increase in our colorectal cancer screening rate. We plan to continue moving forward. The systems we believe are helping us ensure patients are receiving appropriate lifesaving screenings,” Ms. Vergara added.

The original health center was established in 2004 and named “Esperanza” which means “Hope” in Spanish. Esperanza’s programs emphasize prevention and education and are provided by a bilingual and culturally diverse staff dedicated to overcoming barriers faced in these neighborhoods, where more than 53 percent of residents live below twice the poverty level.

The commitment this grantee has to increase colorectal cancer education and screening in medically underserved communities on Chicago’s Southwest side, along with being part of the national 80% by 2018 effort to raise colorectal cancer screening rates is a priority of the Foundation. For more information about colorectal cancer and the Foundation’s community grants program, visit


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