By Michele J. Kuhn
Meridian Health’s campaign fosters message of annual mammogram importance
Paint the Town Pink, a 23-town, two-county effort to increase awareness of breast cancer detection – particularly though the use of mammography – grew from a look at the numbers.
“It did start out of statistics,” said Tria Deibert, director of marketing for Meridian Health System. “Because I was new to health care in 2006 when I started working for Meridian, I was researching health care, looking at all kinds of reports and statistics.”
One of the reports she checked with was from the American Cancer Society. She found it striking that, “even through there’s all this attention on pink, on breast cancer awareness, all this research and finding a cure, the mammography rates were still lower than I thought they would be. I was very surprised. I kept thinking, with all this attention why is it that women still don’t get their mammograms?”
That was the seed for the event which has grown since 2007 when it started with just one town – Red Bank, home of Riverview Medical Center – to this year’s 23-participating towns in Monmouth and Ocean counties.
Red Bank was the only pink town for the first three years then representatives from Monmouth Beach asked to join. That set the ball rolling for other Two River towns to come on board. After last year’s event with eight pink towns, the leadership at Meridian decided to open the campaign up to Ocean County for 2013.
“This event has grown because of community involvement,” Deibert said.
Each year Meridian Health System and those in area communities join together to spread the word about breast cancer prevention, detection and treatment while raising funds for the Pink Fund to help ensure that those who are underinsured or uninsured can get mammograms.
One of the goals of the campaign is to encourage women, who are age 40 and older, to have their annual mammogram because early detection is one of the best defenses against the disease.
The participating towns take on a new moniker for the month-long effort with Red Bank being known as Pink Bank, Little Silver as Little Pink, Rumson as Pinkson. There’s also Pink Haven (Fair Haven), Pinkdel (Holmdel), Pinktown (Middletown), Pink Beach (Monmouth Beach), Pinklands (Highlands) and Atlantic Pinklands (Atlantic Highlands).
There are planned events in the towns. The business community gets involved, highlighting the effort with such visual support as decorated windows and special signs. In years past, residents have gotten involved by “pinking” their homes; this year they can “pink their ride” by decorating their vehicle.
Pink is the color of choice in attire and even, new this year, in buildings with Riverview Medical Center, Bayshore Community Hospital in Holmdel and Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune being washed in pink light each night, beginning May 1.
It appears that all the “pinkafication” of the region has had an impact on residents.
Statistics have shown that the numbers of people in the Monmouth County area who now get regular mammograms has grown in the past seven years since the Paint the Town Pink movement began.
Meridian Health Services does a community health-needs assessment every three to five years to measure the areas of the health expectations outlined in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Healthy People 2020 Target report.
“In 2006, what we saw was 75.6 percent of women in Monmouth County, between the ages of 50 and 75, had their annual mammogram,” Deibert said. “In 2011, when we did the next survey, it had increased to 79.7 percent.
“In Ocean County, where we did not have (the Paint the Town Pink) campaign (until this year), it actually decreased from 73 percent to 62.8 percent” during that period. “Monmouth County is higher than the total area and higher than New Jersey and right on par with the United States in general but below the 2020 target of 81.2 percent.
“That’s one of the results we’ve seen,” Deibert said. “We’ve influenced – though other things have influenced it as well – but we feel we have influenced the mammography rates in Monmouth County” with Paint the Town Pink.
Deibert and Paint the Town Pink volunteer Sally Harris will be honored this year at the Party for Pink, being held at 7 p.m. Friday, May 31, at the Navesink Country Club in Middletown. Hosted by the Care to Give Council of Riverview Medical Center and Bayshore Community Hospital, the third annual Party for Pink will feature dinner, drinks and dancing.
Tickets for the party are $75 per person and may be reserved by calling 855-PINK411.
Additional information about Paint the Town Pink is available by visiting www.PainttheTownPink.com