Safeway invests in womens' health with van
There are plenty of reasons why women don't get mammograms: money, hassle, difficulty taking time away from work or family. Safeway Chief Executive Steve...
Seattle Times health reporter
For more informationThe mobile mammography van will begin traveling in August. To schedule an appointment, call 206-288-7800.
There are plenty of reasons why women don't get mammograms: money, hassle, difficulty taking time away from work or family.
Safeway Chief Executive Steve Burd is hoping that his company's investment in a state-of-the-art mobile digital mammography van will wipe out those excuses and increase early cancer detection. In the long run, he and other business leaders believe such preventive measures will help control health-care costs.
Monday, in the University Village Safeway parking lot, Burd turned over the keys of an $800,000 state-of-the-art digital mammography mobile unit to Dr. Connie Lehman, director of radiology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. He also passed along a check for $200,000 for the first two years' operating expenses.
"The goal is to remove the barriers preventing women from having screening mammograms," said Lehman, who noted that women in Washington state have the highest rate of breast cancer in the country.
The van was paid for by local Safeway customers and employees in a monthlong breast-cancer fundraising campaign, with operating expenses paid by the Safeway Foundation. In the past six years, the company has raised more than $25 million for breast-cancer research and other programs nationally.
Screening won't be free, but Lehman said the alliance will work with uninsured women to get them enrolled in programs that will pay the bills.
The van, which is able to screen up to 30 women a day, will begin traveling next month to selected medical centers and Safeway stores around Puget Sound.
Burd, who has pulled together a coalition of more than 50 companies to find and promote market-based paths to universal access to health care, says he's already restructured the self-insured company's health coverage for non-union employees so they pay nothing for preventive care.
Burd said he's working to integrate the changes into Safeway's multi-employer union contracts.
The unions are already convinced "because health-care costs are eating up the opportunity for wage increases," Burd said. "What I've found is that unions and employers are completely aligned on bringing health-care costs down."
The alliance van won't be the first digital-mammogram mobile unit in the Seattle area: Swedish Medical Center has operated one since 2004, said Karen McInerney, manager of Swedish's Breast Care Centers and its mobile-mammography program.
Both vans use digital technology, shown to be better at detecting cancer in some women. Digital images can be sent instantly to a radiologist for reading, and manipulated for better detection.
"The need is there," McInerney said. "There's more than enough work for all of us."
Carol M. Ostrom: 206-464-2249 or email@example.com
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