On Friday, March 14 more than 300 people convened at Rebaño Compañerismo Cristiano Church to honor Latina women in Humboldt Park. The purpose of the event, hosted by the Humboldt Park Breast and Cervical Health Partnership, was to launch an initiative to raise awareness around the issues of breast and cervical cancer and to improve the utilization of life-saving screening procedures such as Mammography and Pap Smears among Latinas in this community.
The breast cancer mortality rate (number of women dying from breast cancer) in Humboldt Park is 34.3/100,000 women, this is 50% higher than the rate for the city of Chicago which is 22.6 per 100,000 women. In fact, of the 77 community areas in Chicago, Humboldt Park’s breast cancer mortality rate ranks 15th worst – higher than 62 other communities.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Aida Giachello, founder and director of the UIC JACSW Midwest Latino Health Research, Training, and Policy Center, spoke to all those present about the importance of women taking charge of their health and the critical role of community collaboration in addressing health problems such as breast and cervical cancer.
In addition to the more than 200 women present that day were Steven Guerra, the highest ranking Latino in Governor Blagojevich’s administration, Dr. Damon Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, State Senator Willie Delgado, State Senator Iris Martinez, and State Rep Cynthia Soto.
While all of the speakers gave excellent and informative presentations the most compelling and inspiring stories came from the survivors who shared their personal stories and struggles with the group. They included Michael O’Grady, CEO of Norwegian American Hospital, Maddi Elga Amill, Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, Emma Lozano, Director of Centro Sin Fronteras, Cynthia Guerrero, and Wilma Santiago. At times their stories of hope and survival moved, the entire audience to tears. Rebaño’s Pastora
Lynette Santiago made powerful and insightful concluding remarks about faith, hope, and community in the process of confronting breast and cervical cancer.
The Humboldt Park Breast and Cervical Health Partnership is comprised of representatives from the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program (IBCCP), Sinai Health System, the Greater Humboldt Park Community of Wellness, Rebaño Compañerismo Cristiano Church, Pedro Albizu Campos High School/Alternative Schools Network, the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center. The event was sponsored by Norwegian American Hospital, Goya Foods, Banco Popular, and Boca Ad Agency. The event was presented by the Illinois Department of Public Health in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Hispanic/Latino Health Initiative.