As a Part of Colon Cancer Awareness Month, the Health Department Recognizes Health Care Providers that Offer Free Colonoscopies to Uninsured Patients

Every year more than 1,200 New York City residents die from colorectal cancer, making it the city’s second deadliest cancer

Colorectal cancer is highly preventable with routine screenings

March 21, 2017 – Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett today recognized 57 clinical partnerships between 50 clinical sites that offer free colonoscopies to uninsured patients as part of the New York City Community Cares Project. Every year more than 1,200 New York City residents die from colorectal cancer, making it the city’s second deadliest cancer. It is also one of the most preventable cancers because screening can detect it early, when it is more treatable. The Community Cares Project aims to reduce the disparity in colonoscopy screenings between the insured and the uninsured. Over the past three years, over 2,000 uninsured New Yorkers have been screened through the program.

“The Community Cares Project has done an amazing job reducing disparities for colonoscopy screening rates and delivering lifesaving care to uninsured New Yorkers,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “This partnership is a great example of the impact we can have when the Health Department, primary care sites, and endoscopy centers work together with local advocates to improve the health of New Yorkers.”

Colonoscopies can detect precancerous polyps — abnormal growths in the colon or rectum — which can be removed before they turn life-threatening. An adult over 50 whose colonoscopy reveals an early stage colorectal cancer diagnosis has a five-year survival rate of 92 percent.

New York City made great progress in colon cancer prevention from 2003 through 2015, increasing the overall colonoscopy screening rate by 68 percent. In 2015, there were no racial disparities in screening rates between White and Black, Asian or Latino New Yorkers. While this is a significant achievement, insurance status continues to play a role in determining whether New York City residents 50 years and older receive a colonoscopy screening. In 2014–2015, the colonoscopy screening rate for New Yorkers with health insurance was 71 percent, while the rate was just 50 percent for the uninsured.

“Our work with our endoscopy partner has significantly decreased the time lag for our uninsured patients to receive screening for colonoscopies,” said Dr. Matthew Kusher, Clinic Director of Urban Health Plan's Plaza del Sol site, part of a network of community health centers that participate in the Community Cares Project. “Access time has been shortened to weeks from months, which, if there was an issue, is much better for the patients.”

The Health Department recommends that average-risk New Yorkers first get screened for colon cancer at the age of 50. A colonoscopy is usually needed only once every 10 years if test results are normal. A colonoscopy is safe, usually painless, and takes about 30 minutes. Being 50 or older, having a personal or family history of colon cancer, smoking or being overweight or obese increases the risk for colon cancer.

To reduce the risk of colon cancer, New Yorkers should:

  • Get screened beginning at age 50
    • If there is an increased risk for colon cancer based on family history or other health problems, talk to a doctor to see what age is appropriate to start screening.
  • Take steps to quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight by eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly

The New York City Community Cares Project is funded by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the New York State Department of Health and is a collaborative effort with the Citywide Colon Cancer Control Coalition (C5). The program works by partnering primary care sites with endoscopy centers, where colonoscopy screenings are being provided free of charge to the uninsured. By doing away with sliding fee scales and other costs associated with colonoscopy screening, these partnerships are making lifesaving screenings more accessible to the uninsured community. The Community Cares Project staff works with clinical staff on the ground to improve their workflow for identifying, referring and scheduling patients for screenings.

For more information on where to go for colon cancer screening, call 311 or search for “colonoscopy” on



MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Stephanie Buhle, (347) 396-4177