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Breast cancer: a quality certification for patient associations

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Breast cancer: a quality certification for patient associations

Dedicating your time to helping others is a noble gesture, but to do it in the best way it is important to also implement objective skills. For this reason Europa Donna Italia (Edi), a movement that represents women’s rights in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, has decided to rely on Italcert experts to certify a path to professionalize volunteering. The first three associations in the Edi network that underwent the audit and received the quality certificate for the services offered are Amiche per Mano in Bergamo, Serena in Palermo and Agata for the support of women undergoing breast surgery in Foggia. “The certification represents an important step that is part of the profound and widespread work that we carry out to enhance the associations in our network, their commitment in hospitals alongside women with breast cancer, and with institutional decision makers – he says Rosanna D’AntonaPresident of Europa Donna Italia.

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Objective evidence of quality

Many aspects were assessed in order to obtain certification: the skills of the volunteers, their training, the assistance activity aimed at women and the spaces made available to them, the protection of privacy and the transparency, including economic, of their work . “The outcome of the evaluation of the certified associations was remarkable: they all reached the threshold of excellence, which for us corresponds to a minimum score of 80% – he explains Roberto Cusolito, CEO of Italcert – The work carried out in this certification process is a concrete testimony of what it means to provide objective and quality evidence to demonstrate one’s work. They represent an example worthy of esteem, not only for the result of their work, but also for the way in which they carry it out on a daily basis.”

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The word to the associations

The goal is also to break down the concept that volunteering is done by ladies looking to fill their day, as he explains Paola Cornero, president of Amiche per mano: “It’s not like that: volunteering requires great preparation, continuous training, and it is necessary to be helped and supported. For example, we ourselves have regular meetings with a psycho-oncologist. Our aim is to create services for patients with respect to needs not satisfied by the healthcare service: for example we offer consultations with a nutritionist, to avoid following diet fads and fake news that can be dangerous, and an oncology aesthetic service. Both take place within the Day Hospital, while the patients undergo chemotherapy, to transform the time of oncological treatment into time of care for themselves”. Starting the certification process also allows you to reflect on other possible areas of intervention.

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“Associazione Serena in Palermo was established nineteen years ago on the principles and objectives of Europa Donna Italia – he declares Carmela Amato, President of the Association – The training and skills we have acquired over time have changed the paradigm of our associative life, with specific regulations for the recognition and role of volunteers. Having acquired over the years the ability to enter into relationships with institutions and find answers to the needs and legitimate demands of equity of access to care, regardless of geographical location, has been the best result achieved. Having now received a certification attesting to the quality of our work in all of this is a recognition that makes us proud.” “We immediately seized the opportunity offered by Europa Donna Italia to certify our activity within the Breast Unit of the Policlinico Ospedali Riuniti of Foggia – he adds Alessandra Ena, of the Agata Association – not only as proof of the quality of the work carried out, but also as a moment of discussion, reflection and planning within the Association. The certification process forced us to take stock of the situation, to think in terms of sustainability and replicability of our lines of activity, to have a reference framework of what cannot be missing and what could still be done, in short, a analysis of the past and present to project us into the future”.

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Associations supporting treatment centers

The effectiveness of the associations’ work has been recognized by the Ministry of Health which provides for the presence of a voluntary association in the multidisciplinary breast care centres, called Breast Units, within hospitals. The Breast Units have changed the results of patient care: in 2010 only 12% of women were treated in specialized centers, while in 2022, almost 80% of patients are followed in multidisciplinary breast departments. It is estimated that the probability of recovery increases by 18% when treated in a Breast Unit. A remarkable figure, but it can be improved. Evaluating every aspect of these centres, including voluntary associations, is crucial to devise strategies to increase that percentage, according to Europa Donna: “The certification of conformity – concludes D’Antona – is a precious tool to demonstrate the professionalism, competence and the value of patient associations”.

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