A woman giving other women advice is a familiar concept, one that the Arab American Community Health Center Cancer Program is harnessing with a program called Tell A Friend. In this program, women are trained to talk with others about breast cancer screening and early detection. The trainees then go out in the community and ask their friends and family to get mammograms and spread the word.
In 2004, a "peer counseling" strategy was introduced to the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) in Dearborn, Michigan, which has the largest Arab-American population in the country. They tested the waters with Tell A Friend by asking 20 women to participate. Hiam Hamade, who works with ACCESS as the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program outreach manager, recruited and trained the women from different Arabic countries to get a cross section of the population. These women were then charged with going out in the community to educate five other women.
Arabic people are most comfortable getting information from someone they know, so the Tell A Friend program is a good fit for their culture. The Arabic population in Dearborn has a lower level of education than the general population and cancer is rarely discussed. Women's modesty is held in high regard, making breast cancer sensitive subject. However, through the Tell A Friend program, women assured each other that only other women would perform the cancer screenings. "They trust each other," As women in the community spread the word, some began to even approach ACCESS, asking for information and screenings on their own. As a result from additional Tell A Friend groups, ACCESS
reached over 2,000 women with early detection education last year. Roughly over 1,500 received breast cancer screenings, either with their own insurance or through the federally and state funded Breast and Cervical Cancer Control
Program. For most women, it was their first cancer screening.