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Cancer Health Center

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Racial Gap in Treatment, Incidence of Cancer

President’s Cancer Panel Finds Differences Between Minorities and Whites in Treatment and Survival

Racial and Ethnic Differences in Cancer continued...

The report concludes that the reasons for these and other disparities are complex.

Some differences may have genetic underpinnings, for example, while others may be because certain groups have trouble accessing the health care system or getting culturally sensitive or appropriate help once they do.

Many disparities, the panel notes, probably have less to do with race than they do with poverty and education.

“I agree with the report that race/ethnicity is a poor proxy for the major things that should be looked at like socioeconomic status and the level of education and in the case of Hispanics and other immigrant populations, acculturation,” says Richard Warnecke, PhD, professor emeritus and co-director of the center for population health and health disparities at the Institute of Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago. “But they right now don’t collect that data. It’s very hard to get data on socioeconomic status.”

Panel Recommendations

To better address health disparities, the panel made 10 recommendations:

  1. Address serious data deficiencies. The report asks the president to convene an ongoing, multidisciplinary working group to develop more accurate and useful ways of characterizing the population. Until better categorizations are available, the report says, researchers should be explicit about the definitions they use for race and ethnicity and be clear about underlying weaknesses in their information.
  2. Improve data sharing among government agencies.
  3. Support better outreach and training to students so they have educational foundations that support careers in science and health care.
  4. Include cultural competency as an integral part of medical school and continuing medical education.
  5. Increase research on health disparities with a focus on sociocultural and biologic factors underlying the disproportionate burden of cancer borne by medically underserved, socially disenfranchised populations.
  6. Explore and evaluate the benefits of patient navigators and patient-centered medical homes to help people access health care.
  7. Re-evaluate current cancer-screening guidelines to determine their accuracy in assessing disease burden in different populations.
  8. Change patient-reimbursement policies to allow doctors enough time to gather relevant sociocultural information on their patients.
  9. Encourage greater use of medically trained language translators by hospitals and other health care providers.
  10. Continue funding American Indian health services.

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