In a room of about 30 workers on their lunch break at the Underwood Fruit Company in Bingen, Carmen Villanueva covered her surprised face with her hands when she realized she had won $200 cash.
Villanueva, who has been packing fruit at Underwood for about five years, said she had never won anything before that Wednesday, April 8. The cash prize was warmly handed over with a smile to Villanueva by Community Health Worker Tona Sanchez. Sanchez works for Nuestra Comunidad Sana (NCS), which means Our Healthy Community in Spanish, and is a program of The Next Door in Hood River.
Villanueva was entered into the raffle because she had a clinical breast exam at La Clinica del Carino Family Health Care Center and a mammogram at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital last year as part of a breast cancer prevention program run by NCS and facilitated by Sanchez.
For eight years, Sanchez has provided breast cancer outreach and education. She recruits women who are 40 years or older, or if they are younger and have a history of breast cancer in their family to receive a reduced price clinical breast exam. La Clinica then refers them to Providence for a free mammogram.
Last year, 48 women from the Columbia Gorge communities, such as Hood River, Odell, Parkdale, The Dalles, Mosier, Bingen, and White Salmon, took part in the program and received mammograms.
Like Villanueva, many women throughout the Gorge do not have health insurance and may not otherwise have been able to afford a mammogram. A needs assessment by La Clinica in 2000 estimated 18 percent of whites and 58 percent of Latinos in the Columbia Gorge area have no health insurance.
Villanueva plans to use the raffle prize to pay her rent. She told a co-worker that the prize is a small incentive compared to the benefits of detecting breast cancer early.
Although Villanueva said she is always nervous to go in for her mammogram because she is afraid to get abnormal results, she said it is important to take care of her health in order to provide for her children. That is why she gets a mammogram each year as suggested by her doctor.
Breast cancer mortality is higher for women of color, women who come from rural areas, those of low socioeconomic status, and women who are non-English speakers. Latinas in particular are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer, which is more difficult to survive than if it is detected early.
Some women at the Underwood Fruit Company have been so enthusiastic about the program's importance that they have volunteered to do breast health outreach with Sanchez in order to educate other women in their community about breast health and the importance of getting their annual mammograms.
The women hope the program continues because it provides an incentive for them and others to get their annual mammograms. However, the program is dependent on funding which has not yet been secured this year.
For more information on Nuestra Comunidad Sana's programs call (541) 308-2221, or visit our website at www.nextdoorinc.org.