Marianne Matthews

As I write this, Memorial Day is fast approaching and I’m thinking about cookin’ up good things in my backyard barbeque. Meanwhile, some in the medical imaging community have been serving up good things—in their own backyards and beyond.

We talk all the time about improving access to health care. But the dire facts remain. In the United States in 2006, approximately 2.2 million people joined the ranks of the uninsured. According to the Census Bureau, 47 million Americans are now walking around—and running around their backyards—without health insurance. That’s right, even our littlest citizens are at terrible risk. The Census data shows that the percentage of uninsured children younger than 18 rose from 10.9% in 2005 to 11.7% in 2006. The whole thing is enough to make you lose your appetite.

And here’s something else that burns me up. Individuals with gaps in coverage are much less likely to get preventive care. One survey showed that less than half (48%) of uninsured women ages 50 to 64 had a mammogram in the past 2 years, compared with 75% of women who were insured all year (The Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 2005).

That’s why I was heartened to learn of Fujifilm’s “grassroots” effort to increase access to mammograms for women of screening age. On May 8, the company sponsored a morning of free mammograms at Hunter College in New York City. Since it was right in my own backyard, I attended the event, which featured a mobile unit staffed with a team who had already screened 39 women by the time I arrived.

It was refreshing to see Fujifilm’s execs “in the trenches” (read: bustling corner of 68th and Lex adjacent to a subway exit) encouraging women to give themselves the gift of health with a screening. “Our goal is education, awareness, and early detection. We’re trying to communicate the importance and the benefits of mammograms,” said Randy Nagel, director of corporate communications.

The free mammograms were part of Fujifilm’s Images of Health: Mammograms for a Million Moms campaign, which launched in 2006. The company partnered with the National Breast Cancer Foundation to provide the mammograms, which were carried out by the American-Italian Cancer Foundation and Hunter College.

While Fujifilm helped out here at home, manufacturer Carestream Health reached out to those abroad. The company just donated $500,000 in mobile medical imaging equipment to help care for China’s Sichuan Province earthquake victims. The donation consisted of three point-of-care computed radiography (CR) systems to the Red Cross Society of China to help with diagnostic x-ray exams in the wake of the recent natural disaster. According to the company, the mobile systems are designed for a variety of environments including temporary medical facilities that are set up to treat patients in disaster areas.

It’s no picnic living in America without health insurance, let alone living through an earthquake. Kudos to Fujifilm and Carestream Health for recognizing these difficult challenges and doing something about them.

With the rising costs of health care, another round of physician reimbursement cuts pending, and an administration that blows a lot of smoke when it comes to health care access for Americans, we’re all hungry for some good news. Too many Americans are getting burned. Moreover, those even worse off need our help. The medical imaging community must continue to cook up answers for greater access—in our own backyards and beyond.

Marianne Matthews, editor