Rapha Foundation awards $50,000 for cancer education

MEOC’s Mountain Laurel Cancer Support and Resource Center will use a $50,000 grant from The Rapha Foundation to provide cancer education in Wise County and the City of Norton.

Half the funding will be awarded this year; the remainder will come in 2022. The Rapha Foundation Executive Director Mark Vanover (pictured above, center with MLCC Coordinator Dianne Morris and MEOC Executive Director Michael Wampler) delivered the first $25,000 check to MEOC’s office on February 16. The foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving population health and access to education in Southwest Virginia.

“The Rapha Foundation Board recognizes the importance this program plays in the health and well-being of our citizens and want to assist in the expansion of its educational component. Additionally, we recognize the great work performed by MEOC and want to affirm our support of these programs and the people they serve,” said Vanover.

MLCC Coordinator Dianne Morris said the funding will allow MLCC to continue and expand community education about different aspects of cancer in Wise County and Norton. “Finding out that we had received the grant was such great news,” noted Morris.

MLCC provides direct services to cancer patients in its service area, including physician-prescribed liquid nutrition, home-delivered meals, financial help, transportation and pharmacy assistance. The center also provides, often in cooperation with community partners, education on various aspects of cancer.

In a region with the highest cancer mortality rate of any area of Virginia, the need for more education about the disease is great. Environmental, economic and social factors are among reasons people with cancer in this region are more likely to die than in other areas of the state. Limited access to medical care; higher rates of smoking, obesity and inactivity; and higher poverty rates are among the list of contributors.

“We need to put even more emphasis on health education, particularly cancer screenings, and improving relationships within our community to reduce these risk factors,” said Morris. She also plans to expand upon existing relationships with medical facilities, local health departments, schools and churches to provide education and increased screenings. “Early detection is so important to good outcomes,” she said.

One aspect of cancer education on which Morris plans to focus using the Rapha grant is the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination. HPV infection is linked to six different types of cancer in men and women, including cervical cancer. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine as part of routine immunizations for girls and boys at age 11 or 12. The CDC also recommends the vaccine for everyone through age 26 if not previously adequately vaccinated.

In Virginia, the vaccine is an immunization requirement for public school attendance for girls. However, Morris said, from fall 2019 to the end of 2020, only 35.47 percent of boys and girls combined in Wise County and Norton received the vaccine. That’s far below the national goal of 80 percent.

Morris cites misinformation about the vaccine as among likely causes for the low vaccination rate. More education needs to be done, she said. Morris plans to reach out to Wise County and Norton school officials to discuss whether an education program can be initiated in those systems.

MLCC will partner with the University of Virginia’s Master of Public Health program to develop education resources and engage with other public health professionals.

Morris will also continue teaching the Understanding Cancer curriculum, now taught both in person and virtually, which is designed for cancer patients, survivors, families and caregivers. The workshop addresses various aspects of cancer, including risk factors, prevention, screenings, treatments, support and survivorship.

To learn more about the Mountain Laurel Cancer Support and Resource Center, contact Morris at (276) 523-4202 or dianne.morris@meoc.org.

Learn more about The Rapha Foundation here.