Leaders of the American Cancer Society and the African Methodist Episcopal Church met Thursday at First Episcopal District Headquarters to partner on raising cancer awareness in the Black community. Pictured from left are Bishop Gregory G.M. Ingram; Dr. Glenda F. Hodges, American Cancer Society board member; and Dr. Richard Wender, chief control officer, American Cancer Society. — ABDUL SULAYMAN/TRIBUNE CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER

The American Cancer Society and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a global network of 7,000 congregations, have partnered to target cancer in the African American community.

Leaders of the organizations met Thursday at the First Episcopal District Headquarters to finalize plans for outreach to the African-American community with culturally specific health education aimed at raising awareness of cancer prevention and increasing access to screenings and treatment.

“This is a historic partnership between one of our nation’s great faith-based organizations and the largest disease nonprofit organization in the world,” said Dr. Richard Wender, The American Cancer Society chief cancer control officer.

“Our foundational principals are to improve access and to create health equity and we are not going to succeed in doing that unless we create a meaningful partnership with an organization like the African Methodist Episcopal Church.”

The partnership comes as African Americans have the highest death rate of any race in the country for most cancers. The American Cancer Society notes that although the overall racial disparity in cancer death rates is decreasing, in 2009 the total death rate of cancer continued to be 31 percent higher in African-American men and 15 percent higher in African-American women than in their white counterparts.

As colorectal cancer screening rates remain lower among African Americans compared to whites, the American Cancer Society hopes that the partnership with AME will also contribute to raising awareness around the importance of this preventive screening.

The organizations will work together on developing cancer-prevention materials that will be shared in AME churches. As a prominent leader in the African American community, the hope is the church will be able to reach its constituents with life-saving messages about the benefits of prevention and early detection.

“Our partnership with The American Cancer Society will focus attention on one of the major health issues that impacts that lives of people throughout the world and is a campaign unlike any other these two institutions have undertaken,” said Bishop Gregory Ingram, presiding prelate, 1st Episcopal District. “My colleagues and I are excited about this unprecedented venture to make a difference for the future.”

The two organizations plan to partner on the Bicentennial Torch Run, one of the major events to be held in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of the AME Church, the recruitment of new American Cancer Society volunteers and fundraising initiatives.

Bishop James L. Davis, presiding prelate, 9th Episcopal District, said the goal of the partnership is to create greater awareness among their church constituency and raise funds to save lives through research, prevention and treatment.

“When you think about our denomination, we began as a movement of liberation and it’s a holistic ministry that believes in healing. The more knowledge you have, the greater the possibilities for healing and prevention,” Davis said.

The run will be held July 3, 2016 and the route will span from Dover, Del. to Philadelphia, nearly 83 miles. The founder of the AME church, Richard Allen, was a resident of Dover. The AME church grew out of the Free African Society, the first Black mutual aid society that was established in Philadelphia in 1787.

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