By: Dr. Elba Saavedra, The Comadre a Comadre Program Director at the University of New Mexico
“If I wouldn’t have had anybody to talk to, to cry to, or scream with, I think I probably would have had a breakdown”, says Cathy Landavazo of her breast cancer ordeal a few years ago. Thanks to the Comadre a Comadre program in University of New Mexico College of Education, the Albuquerque resident had the support she needed. A comadre is a close friend considered part of the family.
With New Mexico’s nearly 50 percent Hispanic population comes the need for specialized healthand wellness programs.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among New Mexico Hispanic/Latina women and yet they are more likely to report never having had a mammogram compared to Non-Hispanic White women, (New Mexico Cancer Facts and Figures, 2007, NM Cancer Fact & Figures; 2007, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey).
Hispanic/Latina women, for example, face health care and language barriers and strong cultural beliefs which influence disease perception and the health care system’s ability to deliver preventive and oncologic care to this population (Redes en Acción, 2010).
Comadre a Comadre’s mission is to empower the lives of Hispanic/Latina women and their loved ones through advocacy, education, information, resources, and support about breast health and breast cancer. Volunteer peer mentor Comadres, peer patient navigators and community resource navigators play a critical role in providing 1) women in need of low cost and free mammograms, 2) those with breast concerns, 3) and women recently diagnosed with breast cancer, get the support and cancer services they need.
The Comadre Program facilitates interpretation services, counseling, financial and health services referrals, emotional support, advocacy, transportation, and overall navigation of the health care system to women who contact the Comadre Program with breast health needs or with a breast cancer diagnosis.
In addition, the program provides free educational community breast health awareness classes in sites such as businesses, community centers, medical facilities, faith-based organizations, and health fairs. Since 2009, over 1,000 women have attended these free educational classes in partnership with the UNM ENLACE, the Mexican Consulate, the Department of Health’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (BCC), and the First Choice Community Healthcare Clinics, amongst others.
The Comadre a Comadre program is a holistic program that embodies strong Hispanic/Latino cultural coping practices, such as prayer and family support to address the many practical challenges faced by cancer patients. The Program’s staff and volunteers are bilingual and Hispanic/Latino. The Comadre program is a community-base educational initiative of the UNM College of Education. The Program resides in the community providing all services at no cost in both Spanish and English.