Gateway to Hope Awarded Two-Year Grant from Missouri Foundation for Health, to Increase Breast Health Equity and Access to Care in Missouri

June 8, 2021 7:00 am

Funds will support Gateway to Hope’s efforts to build a community-based, state-wide coalition focused on creating greater access to breast healthcare for women across Missouri. 

ST. LOUIS (June 8, 2020) – Gateway to Hope – a nonprofit organization and breast cancer lifeline for low income and underserved women in St. Louis, the state of Missouri and southern Illinois – has been awarded a grant from Missouri Foundation for Health to launch a state-wide effort that will focus on creating equitable pathways to breast healthcare in Missouri.  

Today, breast healthcare delivery in Missouri is a fragmented and complex system that even citizens with financial and supportive resources struggle to navigate. The result of this are clear: there are 35 counties in Missouri with breast cancer mortality rates that are higher than the national average, when accounting for all races. When viewed by race, we can see that in most of those counties, a Black woman is almost twice as likely to die than a white woman. When viewing the leading indicators of mortality – stage of diagnosis, mammography access rates, treatment adherence rates – we can draw a straight line to the state’s poor mortality rates. As with many things, the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated this issue and has exacerbated it: in the first two quarters of 2020, nation-wide mammography services dropped by over 90%. This means that even those women who do receive regular screenings (making them more likely to be diagnosed with treatable cancer) aren’t able to access them. In summary: lack of access to care due to a difficult-to-navigate system, worsened by the pandemic, threatens to increase mortality rates and result in the deaths of thousands of women in Missouri alone.  

“These striking health disparities, which have only been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, are unconscionable,” said Gateway to Hope CEO Katie Manga. “There is no better time than now to address this issue in a comprehensive, compassionate, equitable way to make sure no woman ever has to choose between life-saving healthcare and basic needs. Thanks to the catalytic grant from Missouri Foundation for Health, we’ll be able address these issues head on by building a community-based group who know how important breast health is to overall community health, and who want to build better access to care for all women.” 

Currently, Gateway to Hope serves more than 400 women a year in active breast cancer treatment across Missouri, and its community education efforts reach tens of thousands of community members annually.  

“When it comes to breast health, our current system is failing women in Missouri with harmful policies and practices killing Black women at nearly twice the rate as white women. To achieve health equity, we must try different strategies that include new voices to drive changes at the provider and public policy level,” said Ryan Barker, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Missouri Foundation for Health. “With a community-based approach, Gateway to Hope is empowering women to define their own health care needs and advocating for critical reforms that will ultimately save lives.” 

About Missouri Foundation for Health 

Missouri Foundation for Health’s mission is to eliminate underlying causes of health inequities, transform systems, and enable individuals and communities to thrive. Missouri Foundation for Health is building a more equitable future through collaboration, convening, knowledge sharing, and strategic investment. Working in partnership with communities and nonprofits, MFH is transforming systems to eliminate inequities within all aspects of health and addressing the social and economic factors that shape health outcomes. The Foundation takes a multifaceted approach to health issues, understanding that strategic initiatives, policy, communications, and research all play a role in creating lasting impact. An independent philanthropic foundation, MFH was created in the year 2000, following Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri’s conversion from nonprofit to for-profit status. It is the largest organization of its kind in the state and among the largest in the country.