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Upstate Foundation receives $25,000 grant from AstraZeneca for Upstate Cancer Center’s She Matters program

Selected as one of just 30 recipients from a field of 1400 applicants nationally, the Upstate Foundation was awarded a $25,000 grant from AstraZeneca’s inaugural ACT on Health Equity: Community Solutions Challenge for the Upstate Cancer Center’s She Matters program.

This award stems from AstraZeneca’s commitment to advance health equity through collaboration with non-profit organizations positively impacting the health of underserved populations through regional and local community-based programming.

She Matters is a peer-to-peer community outreach program of the Upstate Cancer Center to reduce breast cancer disparities in low income, primarily Black and Latinx women living in public housing in Syracuse. Working in partnership with the Syracuse Housing Authority, residents are recruited to serve as community health workers (CHWs). CHWs receive training and ongoing support from the Upstate Cancer Center while working as peer health advocates. CHWs provide breast health education, offer support from navigation to screening mammography, and improve access to necessary diagnostic and treatment services. The goal is to eliminate health care barriers, change behavior and make annual breast cancer screening a priority.

Since its establishment in 2014, She Matters has reached over 3,500 women of all ages and facilitated screening in over 650 women ages 40 and above, the majority of whom are low-income, women of color who experience lapses in routine health care services. At the same time, She Matters serves as a work readiness, skill development opportunity for women who serve as CHWs.

The grant will be used to expand She Matters into additional Syracuse Housing Authority residential communities to increase access to breast cancer education, screening and navigation services.

“We are so pleased that AstraZeneca recognizes the value of the She Matters program and the important work that the team does in the community to get underserved women screened for breast cancer,” explained Linda Veit, assistant vice president of community relations and interim chief of staff at Upstate. “Due to this grant, we will be able to expand the program into other public housing communities in Central New York, educate more women on screening and find more breast cancers earlier, when treatment can be most effective.”

“It’s exciting to receive this funding from AstraZeneca,” said Eileen Pezzi, Upstate vice president for development. “To be selected from such a large field of applicants is a testament to the importance of the work Upstate carries out every day in our community.”

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women and the second leading cause of cancer death. Black women are more likely than all other women to die from breast cancer. Their tumors are often found at a later, more advanced stage when there are fewer treatment options. In order to improve health and well-being in underserved communities, especially women of color, it is critical that outreach is provided to those most at risk of early death.

About AstraZeneca’s ACT on Health Equity: Community Solutions Challenge

Through its ACT on Health Equity: Community Solutions Challenge, AstraZeneca has awarded 30 nonprofit organizations across the country support for programs focused on community health and well-being and youth STEM education and career readiness. The organizations awarded represent a variety of innovative programs providing a wide range of services that support underserved communities to improve health outcomes. Click here for a complete list of programs awarded.


Caption: Tending the table at Mary Nelson’s 2021 Youth Day BBQ and Back-to-School Backpack Giveaway are, from left, Linda Veit, assistant vice president of community relations and interim chief of staff, Upstate Medical University; Shelia Kithcart, community health care worker, She Matters; Joseph Binder, volunteer, She Matters; Rosa Sanchez, community healthcare worker, She Matters; and Elizabeth Fuertes-Binder, community breast screening navigator, Upstate Cancer Center.