Health disparities are preventable differences in health outcomes that disproportionately affect socially disadvantaged populations. Examples of health disparities include different disease diagnosis and progression, injury, or access to quality care among varying populations. These populations may be characterized by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic position, gender, geographic location, sexual orientation, or a wide variety of other factors1. Health disparities are the result of unequal distribution of resources, both historically and currently. Populations that are most affected lack access to equal opportunities. To reduce disparities, we must work towards equal distribution of knowledge and resources across social groups with the goal of improving each person’s quality of life.
Cancer disparities are an ongoing issue for many communities and populations. These persistent disparities include higher cancer death rates, less frequent use of proven screening tests, and higher rates of advanced cancer diagnosis. For example, compared to the general population, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, and Alaska Natives, are substantially more likely to have higher occurrence and mortality statistics for certain types of cancer2. Looking outside of race, disparities in cancer outcomes are seen in other factors, such as income and education level. Awareness of cancer disparities is on the rise, however, there is still a lot of progress to be made in addressing cancer disparities.
Please visit the following webpages to learn more about health disparities:
- CDC Office of Minority Health & Health Equity
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities
- NIH National Cancer Institute: Cancer Disparities
Addressing Cancer Disparities at Siteman
At Siteman Cancer Center, we are working to reduce cancer disparities through the Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities (PECaD). PECaD aims to reduce disparities in cancer education, prevention and treatment through a variety of programs.
Siteman Cancer Center and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine have established a partnership through the National Institute of Health to address low-income rural communities in Illinois. Those communities often experience significant cancer health disparities, including lower screening rates, increased incidence, later stage at detection, poorer survival, and higher mortality. Learn more about the partnership on its website: Addressing Rural Cancer Health Disparities: An SCC-SIUSM Partnership.