Navigators Help Patients Get Screened for Cancer in Pennsylvania

Outreach to Immigrants Pays Off

Photo of Ms. Maria Barrera making a presentation.

Patient navigator Maria Barrera makes a presentation.

Getting patients screened for cancer can be hard when they don’t speak English, have limited health insurance coverage, and don’t know where to go for medical care.

In Philadelphia, one project used patient navigators to help local immigrants overcome these barriers as a way to increase screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

Pennsylvania’s HealthyWoman Program trained and paid for two navigators to help patients over a 4-month period. The navigators worked with two local health organizations to reach out to Latino and African populations. These two groups make up 40% of Philadelphia’s immigrant and refugee community.

Many of the program’s patients spoke little English. This made it hard for them to understand written materials, make appointments, or understand the medical care being offered. They also didn’t know that they could get screened for cancer as part of the US health care system.

Navigators worked to overcome these problems by:

  • Giving patients information that takes their native culture and language into account.
  • Helping patients overcome barriers to screening and following up with them if they have abnormal test results.
  • Connecting patients to other services in the community.
  • Giving patients one-on-one help.

“Women appreciate navigation support and the care they receive from the program. They are more likely to engage in care with each positive interaction they have.”

Navigation partner

During the 4 months the navigators worked, 138 patients used their services. Among them, 88 were screened by the HealthyWoman Program and 40 made appointments on dates after the project ended. All patients had help setting up appointments, 90% received reminders, 78% received follow-up communication, and 38% had someone go with them to their appointments.

This project was successful, in part, because the navigators were from the communities and organizations they served. They built relationships with patients and program staff. As a result, patients said they planned to continue visiting the HealthyWoman Program for medical care, and they would spread the word about the services available.

Lessons Learned: Using navigators with strong ties to the community and local organizations can help build connections with patients so more will be screened. The proven strategies used in Pennsylvania could be used by programs in other states.