Grants for community-driven projects help make health equity a reality in Washington

Nine organizations receive support from the Community Grants Program to improve outcomes for underrepresented residents
Pathways to Equity Symposium event discussion
Panel discussion at the Pathways to Equity Symposium presented by the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement on May 1, 2023. Photo by Stefan Muehleis / Fred Hutch

Everyone deserves fair and just access to the medical care they need. But what does it take to translate this well-intentioned value statement into reality for Washingtonians? The organizations funded this year through the Community Grants Program, embody the answer to this critical question. Each received a small grant up to $15,000 to develop and implement an innovative project that addresses a significant health inequity within the communities they serve.

“While in the grand scheme the Community Grants Program is relatively small, it’s a vital way for Fred Hutch to help equip organizations to do important work for the communities they know best,” said Liz Nelson, community health education manager for the Office of Community Outreach & Engagement, or OCOE, which operates the grant program. The OCOE is part of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center/University of Washington/Seattle Children’s Cancer Consortium.

“The breadth of projects supported by this year’s grants is inspiring,” said Nelson. “It’s also exciting to see a couple of grantees who are expanding on projects that were funded last year. The grant program is not only kickstarting important work but helping these projects grow and develop.”

One-year grants are available to community-based organizations, non-profits, 501(c)3 groups and tribes that provide services in Washington or serve Washington residents. The goal is to improve social determinants of health among underrepresented people. Recipients must have experience working with or in underserved communities, such as those experiencing inequities related to race, ethnicity, physical and mental ability, gender, sexual identity, geography, income, education or other factors.

“One entity cannot do this health equity work alone. We all bring different strengths and resources to this work. The organizations are the experts in working within their communities to improve health equity. The Cancer Consortium brings financial resources to support the work. Our role as OCOE is to come alongside these organizations, support their project plans and ask, ‘How can we be a resource for you?’” said Nelson.

“Likewise, the grant program provides opportunities for us to learn from and support diverse communities throughout the state and understand how we can best work together. It is part of the bidirectional relationship building that is a foundation of our work with partners across Washington.”

More than simply providing funds, the grant program is designed to enhance each organization’s capacity to plan, develop, implement and evaluate culturally appropriate, evidence-informed projects tailored to the specific needs and expectations of their communities.

During the application process, organizations have the option to request an academic mentor from the Cancer Consortium to help form their research question, adapt an evidence-based intervention or design a data-driven evaluation plan. This bidirectional process helps build community and academic relationships that may further their success as well as that of the consortium. Those who receive grants are matched with a community health educator from the OCOE to support their project, answer questions and check in at key points throughout the project year.

Reggie Tucker-Seeley
Reggie Tucker-Seeley speaking at the Pathways of Equity Symposium presented by the OCOE on May 1, 2023. Photo by Stefan Muehleis / Fred Hutch

The Community Grants Program has awarded funding annually since 2014. In 2023, the OCOE, the Community Benefit Program and the National Cancer Institute–funded U54 New Mexico State University-Fred Hutch Partnership for the Advancement of Cancer Research combined their small-grants programs, allowing for an increase in the maximum grant amount from $10,000 to $15,000.

This year’s grantees and funded projects are:

  • Cancer Lifeline: “Increasing Mental Health Access & Equity for Cancer Patients & Survivors”
    With its grant, Cancer Lifeline will provide no-cost mental health care services for vulnerable cancer patients and survivors in the Puget Sound area so they can get counseling, information, resources and support. The project will help ensure access for people experiencing disparities, such as difficulty getting culturally and linguistically responsive mental health care. 
  • Cancer Pathways: “CHAMPS 2.0 (Cultivating HPV Awareness & Mobilizing for Prevention and Screening)”
    Building on last year’s Project CHAMP, Cancer Pathways will connect with teens and adults in rural communities to offer cancer prevention presentations, kits and resources. The goal is to motivate and empower people to reduce their cancer risk by talking to their health care provider about screening recommendations and HPV vaccination.
  • Marvin Williams Recreation Center: “Early Detection Is Your Protection, Creating Lifestyle Changes That Improve Breast Cancer Outcomes in Young African American Women”
    The center offers health education focused on prevention, screening, advocacy and treatment for the most prevalent medical conditions among the people it serves. This year, its grant will support a breast health awareness fair to engage African American women ages 18 to 39, assess their understanding and knowledge of breast cancer risk and educate them about ways to promote earlier detection and improve outcomes.
  • Mission Africa: “African Men Health Advocacy Project — Prostate Cancer”
    The project aims to increase prevention and early detection of prostate cancer. Mission Africa will work with community leaders to create culturally specific messages in local languages for African men in the Puget Sound from a range of countries of origin, with a focus on education, awareness, early detection, treatment and support strategies for prostate cancer.
  • Northeast Tri County Health District: “Cancer Care Fuel Voucher Program in Ferry, Pend Oreille and Stevens Counties”
    When people in rural northeast Washington need to travel to receive cancer care, the cost of fuel can be a barrier. Vouchers to help offset fuel costs can make a meaningful difference. With its grant, the Northeast Tri County Health District will expand its existing fuel voucher program beyond Stevens County to Ferry and Pend Oreille counties and will be able to increase the number of vouchers available to each client.
  • Peninsula Community Health Services: “Expanding PCHS’s Medical-Legal Partnership: Providing Direct Legal Representation to Address Patients’ Health-Harming Legal Needs”
    The organization will hire a medical-legal partnership attorney to address health-harming legal needs of its patients by providing free legal representation in these four areas: assisting transgender patients with navigating legal identity markers; ensuring access to public benefits; vacating, sealing and expunging juvenile criminal records; and preparing important medical-legal documents, such as powers of attorney.
  • Spectrum Center: “Gender-Affirming Products Program”
    The center will provide financial assistance to transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals to assist them in obtaining affirming products, clothing, tailoring services, gear and legal name changes to reduce negative health outcomes. The Gender-Affirming Products Program also helps connect people to additional resources, particularly primary care and mental health providers.
  • Tough as Nails: “Giving Love, One Kit at a Time”
    To help ease the experience of children with cancer through art, Tough as Nails will provide tie-dye kits for the American Childhood Cancer Organization Inland Northwest summer family picnic. Tough as Nails donates child-centered, art-based activity kits to encourage connection and help children and families who face medical challenges process difficult emotions.
  • YMCA of Greater Seattle: “Colon Cancer Awareness”
    Collaborating with three area churches to reach Black and immigrant communities, the YMCA will hold health promotion events designed to raise awareness about colon cancer and encourage annual screenings that can improve early detection and treatment. They will hold both virtual and in-person workshops and offer help accessing other resources, such as housing, health insurance and transportation support.

Community organizations that are interested in learning more about how to participate in this program can visit the OCOE’s Community Grants Program website.

Read more about Fred Hutch achievements and accolades.

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