Robert F. Smith Pledges $3.8M To Build Mobile Unit That Helps Black Men Be Proactive About Prostate Health
Photo Credit: Courtesy: Earl Gibson III/ Getty Images
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Robert F. Smith Pledges $3.8M To Build Mobile Unit That Helps Black Men Be Proactive About Prostate Health

It’s time for Black men to take their health more seriously, and this new initiative is here to help!

Kicking off Minority Health Awareness Month on April 1, Robert F. Smith joined forces with Steve Harvey, Chris Tucker, Cedric the Entertainer, and Charlamagne Tha God to launch the Mount Sinai Robert F. Smith Mobile Prostate Cancer Screening Bus. The overall goal of the new state-of-the-art technology-run bus is to help raise awareness around prostate cancer by providing an opportunity for testing for the disease that has significantly taken a toll on the Black community.

“Perhaps the most concerning thing I’ve seen throughout my involvement with prostate cancer research efforts is the lack of knowledge within those communities hit hardest by this disease,” said Smith in an exclusive email interview with AfroTech. “Black men are 76% more likely to develop high-risk prostate cancer and twice as likely to die from it. And yet, until recently there was very little awareness about the disproportionate impact of this disease on Black men. However, we have figured out that when detected and treated early, patients have a 99% survival rate. Early detection is everything, so bringing awareness of this disease to the Black community is critical.”

 

A National Call To Action

Smith pledged $3.8 million to help create the mobile unit which brings state-of-the-art imaging equipment, along with specialized staff, to the communities impacted by this disease the most. They are currently offering screenings and tests that include a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Test, Digital Rectal Exam (DRE), ExactVu Micro-Ultrasound System, EchoNous Bladder Scanner, as well as a Genomic Test.

“The American healthcare system has a long and troubled history within the Black community, sowing seeds of distrust hundreds of years in the making. When looking back at racist acts like the Tuskegee Experiment, it’s no wonder so many within our communities hesitate to trust the medical community,” Smith shared. “When it comes to serious life-threatening diseases, especially those like prostate cancer, we desperately need to improve the relationship between the Black community and the medical community to achieve better health outcomes.”

He aims to improve trust between the Black and medical communities by meeting people exactly where they are.

“My hope is to improve that trust by starting in our neighborhoods and meeting people where they are—bringing health services to schools, churches, neighborhood block parties, and anywhere where we can reach just one more person. Education, access, and representation are just the first steps to repairing the Black community’s relationship with the American healthcare system,” Smith wrote. “More than that, my hope is that the mobile unit will show the community just how important—and simple—it is to be regularly screened for prostate cancer. The community response thus far has been breathtaking, with not just Black men joining in on this effort, but Black women offering their support and encouragement as well. This is about keeping families and communities together.”

How Prostate Cancer Affects The Community

For more context on the effects that prostate cancer has on the Black community, AfroTech also spoke with Dr. Ash Tewari who has played a pivotal role alongside Smith to bring the mobile unit to life.

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in men,” Dr. Tewari explained. “Black men are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with Prostate Cancer and nearly 2.5 times more likely to die from the disease compared with White men. Black men with Prostate Cancer are 4.8 times more likely to report a family history of Prostate Cancer compared to Black men without Prostate Cancer.”

He also stressed the importance of early detection through screening.

“Although early detection through screening and optimal Prostate Cancer treatment improves overall survival, Black men, especially men with low socioeconomic status (SES), are less likely to receive these healthcare services than White men,” he continued. “Only 35% of Black men > 50 years receive Prostate Cancer screening.  Our van will provide access to underserved African American men in Mount Sinai’s catchment area, educate them regarding prostate health and prostate cancer, and perform point of care PSA testing [if eligible and only after shared decision making]. Thus, it will help to diagnose prostate cancer earlier.”

Giving Back Through Brotherhood

Smith notes that while the mobile unit is one way to help spread the word, one other way to get folks excited to take back control of their health include tapping into his network of entertainers with the same mindset as his when it comes to Black men and health.

“I feel extremely blessed to be surrounded by a circle of brotherhood and to be able to call on my good friends Cedric the Entertainer, Charlamagne Tha God, Chris Tucker, and Steve Harvey to support this initiative. That symbol of brotherhood was important to us. As I mentioned, this initiative is about saving our communities—our friends, family, and other loved ones,” he continued. “Having these four men publicly standing beside me, bringing this awareness to the community, and advocating for proper testing not only makes this initiative accessible by appealing to their fans and those who follow their work, but more importantly, it destigmatizes the process. That feeling of unity and brotherhood is something I hope inspires others to start these conversations with their friends and family.”

Click here to learn more about the Mount Sinai Robert F. Smith Mobile Prostate Cancer Screening Bus.