NFL Visits Henry Ford Health to Support Improving Cancer Outcomes

April 22, 2024
Links to Care event

To highlight the importance of effective follow-up care in improving breast cancer outcomes in Detroit, the National Football League (NFL), Detroit Lions, American Cancer Society, Henry Ford Health, and The Wellness Plan hosted a Make Time for Mammogram Day, along with a healing arts activity for cancer patients and mammogram recipients.
Henry Ford Health and The Wellness Plan recently received an American Cancer Society Links to Care Community Grant made possible through the NFL’s Crucial Catch initiative. The grant supports working together to assess challenges within the breast cancer screening-to-treatment process and using evidence-based practices to close health equity gaps by increasing breast cancer screening rates and follow-up care. 

“Early detection plays a crucial role in reducing mortality from breast cancer. After an abnormal screening we must immediately connect patients with follow-up care, so we’re incredibly appreciative of the NFL and the American Cancer Society for making the collaboration between Henry Ford and The Wellness Plan possible,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Walker, director of the breast oncology program at Henry Ford Health. “We’re equally grateful to the Detroit Lions for joining us here today to help spread the word about the importance of early detection.”

Since 2009, through Crucial Catch, the NFL and the American Cancer Society have partnered to raise awareness about early detection and risk reduction. In addition to educating the public about the importance of prevention and early detection, the NFL Crucial Catch initiative raises funds to increase access to cancer screening through NFL CHANGE and Links to Care Community Grants. These funded projects use various resources to increase access to breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancer screening, preventative HPV vaccination, and follow-up care in select NFL markets.  The Detroit Lions support the initiative through in-game awareness and community activities.

“As the NFL brings the Draft to Detroit for the first time, we make it a priority to give back to the local community,” said Anna Isaacson, Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility for the NFL. “Through Crucial Catch, the league empowers fans to take their health into their own hands by getting screened for cancer and educated on ways to reduce their cancer risk. Especially during Minority Health Month, it is a great honor to aid in bringing these resources to the city of Detroit and to Henry Ford Health.”

According to the American Cancer Society, in 2019, only 37% of uninsured women were up to date with breast cancer screening, compared to 70% of privately insured women. Screening rates were also among the lowest in recent immigrants (47%) and women without a high school education (57%). Additionally, Black women are 41% more likely to die of breast cancer than White women overall and are twice as likely to die if they are younger than age 50.  The Links to Care Community Grant was awarded to six pilot NFL markets in 2023 and aims to create connections between community health centers and NFL team-affiliated hospitals to ensure patients complete recommended screening, follow-up care, and treatment for improved breast cancer outcomes.  In the initial months of the Detroit Links to Care grant partnership, 30 percent of The Wellness Plan participants who were screened for breast cancer required and scheduled an additional biopsy after an abnormal mammogram. 

“These patients might have been diagnosed later or not at all and this is in part to the Links to Care program and our dedicated staff” said William Nganongo, Quality Manager, The Wellness Plan. “Our commitment is to continue to increase access and the number of patients screened as the project moves forward.”

The Wellness Plan provides primary care and other health services to uninsured and underinsured individuals, regardless of ability to pay, at five medical centers across Metro Detroit. Henry Ford is the official healthcare provider of the Detroit Lions.

As NFL Draft Week gets underway in Detroit, players and league representatives are excited to get into the community and engage with people who benefit from off-the-field programs. Detroit Lions players participated in a healing arts activity alongside patients with cancer and women who participated in Make Time for Mammogram Day.

Research suggests art therapy helps relieve the emotional concerns of a cancer diagnosis. Henry Ford Health’s Healing Arts program was established to integrate the creative arts and aesthetic experiences into the healing process.  Through Links to Care, The Wellness Program and Henry Ford Health are working together to provide quick access to treatment and similar programs that support patients throughout the cancer journey.  

Defensive end Josh Paschal, Hall of Famer Eddie Murray and legends Maurice Harvey and George Jamison represented the Lions at the event. 



American Cancer Society: 

Henry Ford Health:

NFL: A’Maiya Allen,


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