What We’re Reading: 5 Perspectives on Health Disparities and Barriers to Cancer Care
The positive headlines may be few and far between at the moment, but there’s at least one silver lining: the current pandemic and social climate sparked important conversations about health inequity in the United States.
As a nonprofit focused on the financial burden cancer, we help thousands of families facing barriers to treatment. We know the social determinants of health that influence their cancer outcomes, such as income, housing, food, transportation, race, and ethnicity, and there’s now a renewed collective interest in addressing this important topic.
We’re listening, learning, and contributing in our cancer sphere — here’s a taste of the conversations, stories, and perspectives we’ve seen:
This piece from NPR’s Morning Edition highlights how the threat of COVID-19 is particularly high for cancer patients and their families. Not only does the medication weaken their immune systems, but treatments are also being delayed due to the pandemic and many have lost their jobs and health insurance benefits in recent months. The heartbreaking stories share patient perspectives much like the ones we hear from the families we serve, characterized by intensified physical, emotional, and financial side effects of facing cancer during the pandemic.
A powerful playlist of TED Talks, these videos cover the negative effects racism has on our health and empower listeners to be proactive in healing and supporting their communities. The talks are filled with helpful insight, explanations, and action steps for building a general understanding of race as a social determinant of health.
In this enlightening examination of health equity, medical oncologist and health disparities expert Michelle K. Evans argues that the pandemic is forcing the United States to stare inequality right in the eye. With references to statistics like Black, Latinx, and Indigenous Americans dying from COVID-19 at disproportionately high rates and cancer disparities exacerbated by the fact that only 2.3% of U.S. oncologists are Black, she paints a clear picture of today’s reality. Dr. Evans concludes with the hope that the country is heading in the direction of everyone having fair and just opportunities to be healthy, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.
A recent study published in JAMA Oncology examined parking fees at over 60 cancer treatment centers, and found that the total cost of parking during the course of treatment ranged from $655 for head and neck cancer to $800 for breast cancer to $1,680 for acute myeloid leukemia. These steep out-of-pocket costs can quickly take a toll on any cancer patient, though the researchers noted that they can have especially negative effects on financially vulnerable patients, making access to transportation a significant determinant of cancer treatment success.
The common thread between all social determinants and barriers to treatment is that they play a heavy hand in patient access to care. Cancer rights attorney and co-founder of Triage Cancer, Monica Bryant, shared her thoughts on overcoming these barriers and considering accessibility when developing support programs and resources.
Always walking the fine line between her right and left brain, Stevie brings her creative and strategic thinking to her role as Marketing Coordinator. Through writing and design, she amplifies Family Reach’s voice and puts financial toxicity in the spotlight.
Attendees learned from expert speakers about how social determinants affect cancer patients and discussed strategies to address inequities.
Find out diverse ways you can get involved with our beloved Hope for the Holidays campaign and make a difference for families facing cancer.
In honor of her retirement from our Board of Directors, we spoke to Andrea about her thoughts on the organization she helped create.