One of the most complex challenges for immigrants is adapting to a new healthcare system. The difficulties arise not only because of the cost, but also because how we care for our bodies is different in every culture. When it comes to reproductive health, the challenge is especially difficult because of privacy concerns.
To address this issue, YWCA Alaska runs a program called ENCOREPlus, a reproductive health program for women. ENCOREPlus’s mission is to reduce mortality from breast and cervical cancer through screening and early detection. Among the screenings performed are pap smears, pelvic exams, clinical breast exams, and mammograms. The first three apply to women between the ages of 21 and 64 who are eligible for the program, while mammograms are available to women between 40 and 64 years.
In collaboration with Alaska’s Breast & Cervical Health Check Program, YWCA Alaska offers women who are part of the ENCOREPlus program, free transportation to and from the screenings if needed; interpreter services for those whose first language is not English; help with filling out forms; coordination with medical providers to schedule screenings at convenient times, and follow-up services when necessary.
Women’s Wellness Manager Joan Ryan says that to determine who is eligible for the ENCOREPlus program, YWCA Alaska considers family income. She emphasizes that reproductive health must be a priority for women of any ethnic origin.
The most recent statistics that the Department of Health and Human Services has for Hispanic women living in Alaska are from 2015, and they indicate that 12 Latinas were diagnosed with some type of cancer in that year, while from 1996 to 2015 the average was 6 Hispanic women per year.