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Discussions on Breast Cancer Screening for Women with Disabilities Held in New York City

By Leonor Coello

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Disability and Health Team requested the collaboration of Proyecto Visión and Rehabilitation International (RI) to assist in conducting two one-day Focus Group discussions in New York City on breast cancer awareness for women over 40 with physical disabilities.

The project was an outgrowth of previous research exploring barriers to cancer screening among women with disabilities. Barriers that were identified during the Focus Groups included: individual perception of risk, preoccupation with other health issues, not knowing where to go for accessible screening, difficulty with screening positions, inaccessible facilities and equipment, provider knowledge and attitudes, and the lack of health promotion messages and materials that reflect their unique needs and concerns.

Late last year the American Institute for Research (AIR)/Prospect, a CDC study partner, conducted message concept testing at the RI Headquaters in New York City in support of the Breast Cancer and Women with Disabilities project. A total of 38 women attended the four focus groups: two for Spanish-speaking Hispanic/Latina participants and two for English speaking mixed race/ethnicity participants.

Leonor Coello, representing RI and Proyecto Visión, served as the local contact and logistics coordinator. AIR/Prospect provided flyers in English and Spanish to RI to assist in the recruiting. Ms. Coello distributed the flyers to members in the metro NYC area and contacted (via email and phone) numerous metro-area Centers for Independent Living (CIL) and other organizations that serve women with physical disabilities. She organized a conference call with three CILs in order to solicit their support for the project and help in recruitment. The Independent Living Center from Harlem participated. Ms. Coello also convinced two major Spanish newspapers (El Diario/La Prensa and Hoy) to place a small advertisement in their community pages announcing the focus group meeting free of charge for two weeks.

Through outreach efforts 11 Latina women with physical disabilities were recruited. Participant disabilities included arthritis, muscular dystrophy, amputation, and hearing impairment.

The preliminary report from AIR/ Prospect states:

“Overall, this round of focus groups went well. The moderator, a native Spanish speaker with a Ph.D. in Health Services Research/Public Health, was very effective. Focus group participants responded to her well and while we have not yet reviewed transcripts, we believe we attained good, insightful feedback to the concepts. In fact, some women offered to act as models in the final pieces and asked to be included on a distribution list once products are developed.”

Contact Ms. Coello for additional details at

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