AMSTERDAM — St. Mary’s Healthcare over the next five years will be working on a new multi-year initiative totaling $1.125 million to introduce cancer prevention strategies to communities in Fulton, Montgomery and Schenectady counties.
St. Mary’s representatives made the announcement Tuesday that it had received the Community Cancer Prevention in Action award for the new project from the state Department of Health Bureau of Cancer Prevention and Control. St. Mary’s Healthcare is the only healthcare system in the state to receive this award.
The award also makes St. Mary’s Healthcare the recipient of three competitive cancer awards from the state Department of Health. Its two other awards are the Cancer Services Program and the Breast and Prostate Cancer Peer.
“We are excited and gratified. As it were, a great number of health organization applicants that had applied for this grant,” said President and CEO of St. Mary’s Healthcare Victor Guilianlli. “Dedicated efforts of our team through the long and complex application process and detailed selection process from the Department of Health resulted in the award going to St. Mary’s Healthcare for the counties that we serve.”
Guilianlli said the Community Cancer Prevention in Action will be working with community partners sharing cancer prevention education strategies and cultivate good habits to lower the cancer risk of the communities it serves.
This initiative of this project is to increase sun safety strategies, education on the dangers of indoor tanning, building support to increase the use of cancer prevention vaccine and encourage employees to adopt paid time off for cancer screenings.
The goals for the project include introducing strategies to reduce an individual’s risk for skin cancer by starting sun protection habits at an early age. Risks of getting skin cancer are increased due to skin damage adding up from exposure to ultraviolets and indoor tanning.
This initiative will build public support for local level changes that encourage the use of and remove barriers to the cancer prevention vaccine.
“The cancer prevention and action project program for New York state is supporting local cancer prevention and risk reduction interventions using policy, systems and environmental change approach,” said Ginger Champain, coordinator for cancer prevention in action. “We will introduce strategies towards sun safety and build awareness and promote the benefits of sun safe behaviors.”
Champain said in 2018, the state signed into law that anyone younger than 18 is prohibited from using indoor tanning facilities.
“We will build awareness about this law and the dangers of indoor tanning with the youth in our communities,” Champain said.
She said tanning beds are a cancer causing substance. They give off high levels of UV radiation in a short amount of time and is known as a carcinogen.
“We will also build and support the encouragement and the use of the cancer prevention vaccine HPV,” Champain said. “We will build awareness around that, provide education to increase the lifespan of our youth and reduce their risk to cancer onset.”
This vaccine can reduce treatments for new cases of pre-cancerous infections.
“We will work with decision makers over the next five years with these important cancer prevention initiatives and we are thankful to have the support of St. Mary’s Healthcare, our community partners and the New York state Department of Health,” Champain said. “Together we will do our best to lower the cancer risks and reduce any new onsets of cancer for our communities.”