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Eliminate Inequities - National Cancer Plan

Goal: Disparities in cancer risk factors, incidence, treatment side effects, and mortality are eliminated through equitable access to prevention, screening, treatment, and survivorship care.

Although we have made significant progress over the last several decades in reducing deaths due to cancer, not all groups have benefited equally. Certain populations, including those from specific racial or ethnic groups, those who live in rural or underserved areas, people with disabilities, and sexual and gender minority individuals, continue to suffer disproportionately from cancer. Overcoming these disparities will require finding and adopting ways to engage diverse populations as active participants in research while eliminating barriers to high-quality preventive care, screening, and treatment.

A reddish brown, circular icon with a photo of a woman in a hijab and a child. The woman looks at the child and the child looks at a health care professional. Above them are the words Eliminate Inequities.

The state of eliminating inequities today

The reasons for cancer disparities are complex and include both biological and societal factors that impact a person’s health. Biological factors that contribute to inequity are not well understood, but evidence suggests they may play a role alone or in combination with social determinants of health—the conditions in which someone is born, works, grows, lives, and ages. Examples of social determinants that drive health disparities include crowded housing, poor access to food, and environmental contamination.

Where these factors exist, we may also see limited access to cancer screening, prevention measures, and high-quality cancer care. To address this and fully represent the diverse makeup of our society, we must do more to ensure that research includes all populations.

Additionally, while the National Cancer Program focuses on our country’s needs, it is essential to contribute and collaborate beyond borders to reduce global cancer health disparities.

Strategies to eliminate inequities

  • Emphasize studying the causes of inequity in the number of cancer cases and deaths.
  • Tackle inequities that prevent successful outcomes in underserved populations at each step of cancer care, from prevention through survivorship.
  • Engage communities in cancer education and promote structural changes that increase prevention and early detection.
  • Improve health literacy by developing culturally relevant education programs that encourage community wellness.
  • Ensure that every person benefits equitably from cancer research and clinical advancements.
  • Support strategic efforts to increase representation of all populations in cancer research.

Examples of NCI-supported research to achieve this goal

  • The Connecting Underrepresented Populations to Clinical Trials program is providing culturally tailored education and services to increase enrollment of people from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in NCI-supported clinical trials.
  • A consortium is addressing the need to boost colorectal cancer screening rates in American Indian communities across the Southern Plains and Southwest United States.
  • The Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity program fosters collaborations between NCI-Designated Cancer Centers, scientists serving underserved populations, and underrepresented students to better understand what causes cancer health disparities.

Examples of activities across the government to achieve this goal

  • Project Community is a public health outreach initiative for patients living with cancer, survivors, advocates, families, and people living in underserved urban and rural communities who are at greater cancer risk. This effort was established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • The Department of Labor created new resources to help workers living with cancer, their caregivers, and cancer survivors to understand and make use of their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Networking2Save supports a consortium of national networks to advance the prevention of commercial tobacco use and cancer in populations experiencing tobacco- and cancer-related health disparities. This effort is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • CancerX, a public–private partnership launched by the Department of Health and Human Services, will boost human-centered digital innovation and explore the root causes of health inequity and financial toxicity in cancer.
  • The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to women who have low incomes and are uninsured or underinsured. This program is led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Learn more about this goal
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