Local nonprofit wins grant to help minority cancer patients

African-Americans are roughly twice as likely as other Buncombe County residents to suffer from diabetes, prostate cancer and breast cancer, Elaine Robinson reports. And as executive director of the Asheville-Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement, she’s trying to do something about it. Since its inception five years ago, the organization has worked to address such local health disparities, and a $300,000 grant from the N.C. Health and Wellness Trust Fund will enable the group to provide support to minority cancer patients.

The institute, she says, “connects people to resources.” It began as a grass-roots effort to push for economic, social and health parity for African-Americans and other local people of color. In collaboration with the Buncombe County Medical Society and other established groups, the institute developed a four-pronged approach: advocacy, education, research and community partnerships, Robinson explains.

The Minority Medical Mentoring Program, for example, helps high-school seniors explore career opportunities in the medical field. Although African-Americans account for about 6 percent of Buncombe County’s population, only 1 percent of the approximately 600 physicians actively practicing today are African-American, she points out.

The new grant will help the organization expand its outreach program for minority cancer patients and link them to the services they need, says Robinson. The grass-roots approach means working with churches, community centers, beauty shops, local businesses and community volunteers to locate folks in need. The group plans to offer health screenings and education, as well as helping residents navigate available services, she emphasizes.

In the past year, the institute has also received a number of smaller grants: $65,000 from the federal Office of Minority Health (for men’s health); $10,000 from the Janirve Foundation (to relocate the office to the YMI Building at 39 S. Market St.); and $25,000 from The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (to support ongoing initiatives). Putting those grant dollars to work means collaborating with Mission Hospital, the Mountain Area Health Education Center, Anderson Ophthalmology, the local chapter of the NAACP, local schools, the Buncombe County Health Department and many others, says Robinson.

As board Chair Robby Russell puts it, “We hope to enable the entire Buncombe County community to contribute and invest in the health and welfare of people of color.”

Thursday, May 28, is Men’s Health Night at Stephens-Lee Recreation Center. From 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., the event will feature presentations on diabetes, cardiovascular and prostate health. It’s part of a collaborative effort by the Asheville-Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement and the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department. Free, healthy snacks will be provided. For more information, contact Maureen Jablinske at 350-2058 or stephenslee@ashevillenc.gov.

To learn more about ABIPA, visit www.abipa.org, or call 251-8364.

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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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