2020 was quite a year! Despite a global pandemic, we were able to fulfill our mission in numerous ways. I am excited to share with you UHRU’s major accomplishments of 2020. I also want to extend my deepest gratitude to each and every one of you for your support. With your help, we are increasing access to care and building a future where no one is underserved.
Our Pathway to Health Campaign
We kicked off our first Year-End fundraising campaign, A Pathway to Health, to support screening underserved Georgians for colorectal cancer. Our goal was to raise $30,000. Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, we doubled our goal and raised over $60,000! Together, we are building a pathway to screen underserved Georgians for colorectal cancer.
Expanding Current Programs By Building Coalitions
We formed a coalition in Athens, Georgia to screen underserved residents for colorectal cancer. Our coalition partners include Athens Nurses Clinic, Athens Area Habitat for Humanity health van, Athens Neighborhood Health Center, an Athens area gastroenterologist and St. Mary’s Health Care System. This coalition will serve as a model for us as we build coalitions in other Georgia communities.
Our newest colorectal cancer screening program was started in October in partnership with Athens Nurses Clinic. Together, we are increasing access to health care for the most underserved in our community - uninsured and low-income Athens residents. By the end of 2020, we screened 25 underserved individuals and identified 2 patients who need and will receive follow-up colonoscopies. These numbers represent real people in our community who would never have been screened for colorectal cancer, and for 2 patients, it may save their lives.
Expanding Follow-up and Treatment Options
We expanded our follow-up and treatment options for underserved residents in our Athens coalition. We partnered with an Athens area gastroenterologist and St. Mary’s Health Care System to provide this much needed care. Additionally, we partnered with SIRUM, an organization that provides surplus medication to uninsured and low-income individuals, to provide donated bowel prep for patients who will receive follow-up colonoscopies.
Our COVID-19 Response
The COVID-19 pandemic presented us with opportunities to support underserved Georgians and our coalition partners in ways other than colorectal cancer screening. In order to safely deliver health care to the underserved, our coalition partners require personal protective equipment (PPE), and this equipment was in short supply during the early stages of the pandemic. We were able to provide face mask covers and shields to them through our partnership with the Georgia Sewers. UHRU led the COVID-19 fundraising drive, secured donated materials for the face mask covers, and increased awareness through communications and media. Through this partnership, we delivered 48,596 face mask covers and 14,164 face shields to federally qualified health centers, hospitals, nursing homes, primary care practices, public health departments, emergency medical services, and public safety organizations. We also made a $1,000 donation to one of our coalition partners to purchase PPE for their health care providers.
As we enter the first few days of 2021, we are seeing our darkest days of the COVID-19 global pandemic. But there is hope with the distribution of vaccines and new leadership to help support universal masking and other mitigation efforts.
At UHRU, we will continue to fulfill our mission to improve the health and well-being of rural and underserved people worldwide. We will expand our current programs to more communities in Georgia; add depth to our current programs to include prevention, detection and treatment; and develop new health programs that directly address the needs of the underserved. We have a lot of work in front of us, but we are confident we can get it done! We hope you will continue to follow along with our progress in 2021.
Teresa A. McLean, PhD