|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 5, 2008
NYC Subway Hero Helps Save More Lives
Wesley Autrey Joins NYC Public Hospital Campaign to Promote Colonoscopies for 50 year-olds
by Urging New Yorkers to Get Screened for Colon Cancer
NEW YORK CITY - The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) today announced that subway hero Wesley Autrey will serve as Colon Cancer Awareness Campaign spokesperson to urge New Yorkers over the age of 50 to get screened for colon cancer. The 52 year-old Autrey got his first colonoscopy last year at Harlem Hospital, one of the 11 HHC facilities that provide low and no cost colonoscopies.
HHC also announced that it nearly tripled the number of screening colonoscopies performed last year compared to 2003, and removed precancerous polyps from nearly 14,000 patients since then.
"I jumped into the subway tracks to save one life but now I’m jumping into this campaign to help save even more lives," said Autrey. "Like me, New Yorkers over the age of 50 who could be at risk of colon cancer can be a hero to their families just by getting a colonoscopy and staying healthy. It’s just what you do!"
Autrey will be featured in public service announcements on cable TV, print and radio and will be making live radio program and other appearances throughout the month of March to talk about the benefits of getting screened. The public service announcements will also appear in Spanish language publications and feature actress Chita Rivera.
"Although we’ve made impressive gains in closing the gap in racial and ethnic disparities by providing over 90,000 colonoscopies over the last five years - about 1400 New Yorkers still die from colon cancer each year," said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. "We want to remind New Yorkers that colon cancer can be prevented. A colonoscopy is the only cancer screening method that can actually remove precancerous growths before they develop into cancer."
HHC colon cancer screening program highlights:
- 20,871 people received a colonoscopy in a public hospital during 2007, a 76% increase compared to 2003.
- The number of screening colonoscopies nearly tripled – from 4,585 in 2003 to 12,511 in 2007.
- Removed pre-cancerous polyps from 13, 915 patients since 2003.
- 91,613 New Yorkers have received a colonoscopy since 2003
According to the City Health Department only half of New Yorkers age 50 and older have been screened, leaving nearly a million more at greater risk for undetected colon cancer. Additionally, people in higher risk groups for colon cancer are less likely to get a colon cancer screening, including African American men and women, smokers and people who do not exercise regularly. African American men have the highest overall death rate from colon cancer of any group in the City, and are 35% more likely than White men to die from colon cancer. Although women have a lower colon cancer death rate, Black women similarly have the highest death rate (20 per 100,000) compared with White women (15/100,000).
"There’s a 50-50 chance that New Yorkers over the age of 50 have not been screened for colon cancer. We want to improve those odds," said Dr. Kathie Rones, Medical Director of Kings County Hospital Center. "We’ve increased access to colonoscopy screening, from expanding screening capacity to providing bi-lingual patient navigators who help guide patients through the process. There’s no excuse for anyone at higher risk for colon cancer not to get this critical screening done."
Free or low-cost colon cancer screenings are provided at all 11 HHC hospitals. HHC is also partnering with local hospitals in Staten Island to ensure borough residents have access to life-saving colonoscopies. The screenings are available to all New Yorkers regardless of immigration status or ability to pay. New Yorkers can dial 311 or visit nyc.gov/hhc for more information or to contact a public hospital for an appointment.
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The Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), the largest municipal hospital and health care system in the country, is a $5.4 billion public benefit corporation that serves 1.3 million New Yorkers and nearly 400,000 who are uninsured. HHC provides medical, mental health and substance abuse services through its 11 acute care hospitals, four skilled nursing facilities, six large diagnostic and treatment centers and more than 80 community based clinics. For more information about HHC, visit www.nyc.gov/hhc.