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National Black Church Initiative pushes myeloma awareness

Home/Inspirational/National Black Church Initiative pushes myeloma awareness

National Black Church Initiative pushes myeloma awareness

There is a nationwide cancer awareness campaign designed to try and help reach and educate people of color in this country.

I was aware that one of the strategies involved includes trying to reach African Americans through community churches and ministers.

This is the first national program I am aware of–co-promoted by a pharmaceutical company–to use this approach:

The National Black Church Initiative is proud to partner with Novartis to increase awareness about this little known disease. The objective of this multiple myeloma campaign is to heighten awareness within the African American community. We believe that education empowers our parishioners to take the necessary actions to maintain high quality of bone health. It is imperative that those affected by multiple myeloma and their families follow the preventive behaviors illustrated in this campaign and to seek the advice of their physician to protect and improve bone health. NBCI endeavors to eradicate racial disparities in healthcare, technology, education, housing, and the environment and has been a leader in the faith-based community for over 20 years. NBCI’s mission is to provide critical wellness information to all of its members, congregants, churches and the public. The National Black Church Initiative’s methodology is utilizing faith and sound health science.

This Multiple Myeloma Initiative falls under our Health Emergency Declaration (HED), an initiative that we believe to be our lifelong work. HED is a 7 year, programmatic preventive health campaign launched in faith-based communities nationwide to change the landscape of U.S. healthcare and dramatically transform the current African American health paradigm. A significant element of our HED programming is to address the high incidence rates of cancers within the African American community and to implement innovative cancer prevention strategies nationwide. Please visit our website for more information about HED and our Health Initiatives at

The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans, proudly announces the kick-off of an educational health campaign to increase awareness of multiple myeloma within the African American community. This initiative, entitled To Stay in the Game, Maintain Your Frame, is a partnership between the faith-based community and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (“Novartis”), a leader in seeking to improve outcomes for cancer patients, about multiple myeloma and to promote bone health, especially among those at highest risk – African American men aged 60 and older.

Multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer of the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell found in the bone marrow.  This disease can lead to bone complications including pain, fractures and spinal cord compression.  Metastasis – the spreading of cancer from one area of the body to another – very commonly occurs with bone cancers.

This program is a response to the disproportionate impact of multiple myeloma on African Americans.  To Stay in the Game, Maintain Your Frame is a multi-faceted program to educate African Americans about multiple myeloma, the importance of maintaining bone health, and the need for doctor-patient dialogue about how to effectively manage bone complications and become active participants in their health.  Elements of the program include patient education materials and tips for better bone health, as well as short videos demonstrating activities of daily living that may help reduce the risk of falls and other skeletal injuries.

About Multiple Myeloma

Multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer of the plasma cells, a type of white blood cell found in the bone marrow.  This disease can lead to bone complications including pain, fractures and spinal cord compression.  Metastasis – the spreading of cancer from one area of the body to another – very commonly occurs with bone cancers.  Nearly 95% of advanced stage multiple myeloma patients’ disease spreads to their bones, giving rise to a variety of symptoms.  For patients suffering from multiple myeloma, bone lesions may cause debilitating skeletal related complications and may impact a patient’s quality of life and that of their caregiver.  The earlier any lesion is diagnosed, the more likely it can be effectively managed.

The most common symptom of bone metastases is pain but if these metastases are left untreated, some cancer patients experience a skeletal-related event (SRE), such as pathological fracture, as their first sign of metastatic disease. It is often difficult to differentiate bone pain from other conditions such as arthritis or ordinary lower back pain. However, there are other signs that could indicate bone metastases have developed.

They include:

  • Bones breaking easily without an obvious cause.
  • Hypercalcemia symptoms associated with high levels of calcium in the blood. These include loss of appetite, nausea, thirst, fatigue, muscle weakness, restlessness and confusion.
  • Symptoms of spinal cord compression, including back pain and difficulty walking.
  • Other symptoms might include numbness and weakness in the legs, problems with the bowels or bladder or numbness in the abdominal area.

For patients with multiple myeloma, bone health can be elusive and often devastating so it is critical for people to engage in the following:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet enriched with calcium and vitamin D. Low-fat dairy products, and foods and drinks with added calcium are good sources of calcium. Good sources of vitamin D include egg yolks, fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, and milk with vitamin D. Some people may also need to consider taking nutritional supplements in order to get enough calcium and vitamin D in their diets. Fruits and vegetables also contribute other nutrients that are important for bone health.
  • Get plenty of physical activity. Like muscles, bones become stronger with exercise. The best exercises for healthy bones are strength-building and weight-bearing. Walking, climbing stairs, lifting weights, and yoga are the best exercises to help build strong bones. Try to get 30 minutes of exercise each day.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle. Avoid smoking, and, if you choose to drink alcohol, try not to drink too much.
  • Talk to your doctor about your bone health. If you are concerned about your bone health, go over your risk factors with your doctor and ask if you should get a bone density test. If you need it, your doctor can order medicine to help prevent bone loss and reduce your chances of breaking a bone.
  • Prevent falls. Falling down can cause a bone to break, especially in someone with multiple myeloma. But most falls can be prevented. Check your home for dangers like loose rugs and poor lighting. Have your vision checked. Increase your balance and strength by participating in weight-bearing or strength-building activities.
This program was developed with support from Novartis

HEY!  Whatever works!  African and Latin Americans with multiple myeloma are often diagnosed very, very late, resulting in a a lot of preventable bone involvement, kidney failure and substantially lower mortality rates.

Raising awareness about multiple myeloma and other blood cancers in these communities may be the first step toward turning things around.  Developing trust in doctors and the healthcare system, as well as overcoming cultural resistance toward seeking treatment are major hurdles in the way.

Good luck to Novartis and the National Black Church Initiative!

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat