BreastSens launches the Soweto Breast Cancer Network (SBCN) project


Historical race stratified social service systems developed under apartheid have created unequal healthcare resource allocation divides – with the most healthcare expenditure and structural development  in the private healthcare system (utilized by the majority of the white population) and least healthcare and structural development in public healthcare system (utilized mainly by Black people who comprise 79.2 per cent of the national population).
These structural barriers to care are exasperated by socio-economic and cultural barriers, including but not limited to: stigma, traditional and religious beliefs, fatalism, gender inequity and religious inclinations, inherited from older generations of African populations and still practiced by modern urban township dwellers. An integrated, focused, evidence based breast cancer intervention model that incorporates both socio-cultural and structural barriers to early treatment seeking behavior and total treatment compliance has not been undertaken among poor South African populations.
The main aim of the Soweto Breast Cancer Network is to ameliorate the breast cancer care divide caused by the lack of culturally appropriate evidence based equitable primary breast healthcare faced by poor women in South Africa.  The SBCN will train 60 nurse practitioners from municipal and local clinics in the Chris Hani Baragwanath Breast Clinic (CHBBC)’s feeder areas and referral network. The nurses will be trained as primary health providers able to perform clinical breast examinations, fine needle aspirations (FNAs) and to recognize and refer suspicious and advanced tumors to the CHBCC for further investigation by specialist breast cancer consultants.
All early detection services will be integrated into pre-existing government public health clinics in pre-identified high volume referral clinics around Soweto. The culturally appropriate medical intervention approach will be tested as a model of increasing breast health services uptake, measurable treatment compliance, decreasing late disease, reducing defaulter rates and lost to follow-up cases among poor Black women .
Discussions are underway with research and other NGO collaborative partners who will help design the content of the breast nurses training program. Sonke Gender Justice Network, a gender rights and Human Rights NGO has come on board to assist with culturally appropriate community and media messaging. Sonke has run succeful public campaigns on; domestic violence, promoting gender equality by educating young men about women's rights, through their nationally successful  "One Man Can" and "Brothers for Life" HIV/Aids awareness programs.

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