Evelinn Borrayo, PhD, has made it her mission to eliminate cancer disparities in Colorado.
It’s a responsibility Borrayo takes on not just as associate director of community outreach and engagement at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, but as a voting member of the Colorado State Board of Health. Part of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the Board of Health implements rules related to Colorado’s public health, approves funding for public health grant programs, appoints members to public health committees, and advises CDPHE’s executive director.
In April, Borrayo was reappointed to a third four-year term on the Colorado State Board of Health by Governor Jared Polis.
“It’s an honor to be recognized for my work in cancer disparities and to have the ability to have a vote on how we oversee public health,” says Borrayo, who represents Colorado’s 2nd congressional district, which includes the northwest suburbs of Denver, including Boulder and Fort Collins, as well as the mountain towns of Vail, Granby, Steamboat Springs, and Idaho Springs. “For the CU Cancer Center it’s very important and relevant, because we get to be part of what’s happening at the state level.”
COVID-19, tobacco, and more
Borrayo is particularly proud of the work the board of health did during the COVID-19 pandemic, passing regulations on health care vaccination requirements and overseeing that all populations had access to vaccination, including communities of color.
“Health care personnel had to have the COVID vaccine, and that wasn’t part of what health care facilities could require before,” she says. “So once the governor passed an emergency ruling, we passed how it would be regulated — how the health department would oversee it, and how the law would be applied.”
The board of health also plays a large role in tobacco control in Colorado, approving grants to provide tobacco education and smoking cessation information to underserved populations that are typically targeted by the tobacco industry. The board recently voted on the latest round of funding enabled by Amendment 35, a 2004 amendment approved by voters to increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.
“Those tobacco dollars by legislation need to be put back into communities affected by tobacco and those with greater incidence of tobacco-related cancers,” Borrayo says. “We voted on how those tobacco dollars get distributed across Colorado.”
Borrayo, who in addition to her work at the CU Cancer Center is also a professor of community and behavioral health at the Colorado School of Public Health, was first appointed to the Colorado State Board of Health in 2016 by then-governor John Hickenlooper. Selected for her work on cancer disparities and health workforce development, she calls the appointment “the most meaningful public service” she could ever perform, as it allows her to consider issues affecting the health of Coloradans and vote to improve the health of all citizens.
Borrayo was named associate director for community outreach and engagement at the CU Cancer Center in 2019; one of her major initiatives is to increase the involvement of traditionally underserved populations in cancer prevention and control interventions and in research studies, including clinical trials.
“It doesn’t matter that we’re developing new, effective cancer treatments to those who can’t access them,” Borrayo says. “If you get diagnosed with cancer and don’t have access to treatment, it can be as good as a death sentence.”