How doctors are using a network set up for the pandemic to screen underserved communities

When it became clear that COVID-19 was hitting some communities harder than others, doctors joined forces with local organizations to reach people who were falling through the cracks.

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Those same networks are being used to address other health issues.

Umoja Health was set up to bring COVID-19 vaccines and tests to the African American community. With the pandemic's outlook is improving, Umoja Health's founder, Dr. Kim Rhoads, sees an opportunity.

"We will continue to offer COVID vaccination and COVID testing," Rhoads told KCBS Radio's "As Prescribed" on Thursday. "But, we now want to start to use the networks that we have established to focus on other health conditions that have gone neglected."

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With March being Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, they're turning their attention to screening for that disease.

Rhoads, who is also Director of the Office of Community Engagement at the UCSF Cancer Center, said there are a number of reasons why African Americans are 40% more likely to die from colorectal cancer than other populations.

"The biggest one I think that we can intervene on is late stage at the time of diagnosis," she explained. "Colorectal cancers are much easier to treat if they are diagnosed as stage one or stage two. Sometimes you can even cure it with surgery alone without needing chemotherapy. But, once you get into stage three and stage four cancers, much more intensive therapy is needed."

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Featured Image Photo Credit: American Cancer Society/Getty Images