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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

Role of Health Care Reform

Many of the 10 recommendations in the 150-page report, which was developed before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was passed last year, have already been addressed by health reform, the panel notes.

The panel says its report underscores the importance of the legislation, and in some cases, shows where federal agencies need to go beyond the minimum requirements of the law.

Title IV of the PPACA, for example, mandates that all federally funded health programs collect and report data on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, and disability status by 2012.

The Department of Health and Human Services has to develop standards for that data, which, at minimum must adhere to criteria for race developed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Health reform also addressed many problems with access to health care faced by minorities. It authorizes patient navigation demonstration programs, for example, and mandates that the government establish comprehensive methodology and criteria for “medically underserved populations,” a designation that delivers federal funding for health care to places that don’t have enough facilities or medical providers.

The act also mandates better data sharing across agencies.

There are recommendations in the report that are not addressed by the PPACA, such as the need for standardized definitions of race and ethnicity, the need to expand research and improve understanding of the factors that influence cancer risk and outcomes among diverse populations, and the need for higher standards of cultural competency among health care professionals.

Looking to the Future

Researchers say the changes will be welcome, when they come.

Warnecke has a federal grant to study health disparities in women with breast cancer, but he can’t get access to the government data collected on breast cancer in his state.

Illinois collects detailed data on breast cancer cases, and along with other states, and reports it to a federal registry.

“I have a center for population health and health disparities that’s funded by the National Cancer Institute, and we’re studying breast cancer, and it’s difficult,” Warnecke says. “I can get data more easily from seven other states than I can from my state, and there’s something wrong with that.”

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