Close the Care Gap This World Cancer Day

By Sara Bondell - January 25, 2024

Every Feb. 4 is World Cancer Day. The global initiative, led by the Union for International Cancer Control, aims to raise awareness to help prevent cancer deaths and increase access to lifesaving treatment for all.

This year’s theme is “Close the Care Gap,” which focuses on health care inequity by addressing its root cause and ensuring that everyone — no matter who you are or where you live — has access to quality care.

For decades, Moffitt Cancer Center has been confronting the care gap head on. Here are some ways the cancer center is working to ensure equality.

Creating the Office of Community Outreach, Engagement and Equity. The office, created in 2018, works to uphold Moffitt’s commitment to maximize the impact of its research through engagement and equity in 23 counties spanning West Central Florida. The goal is to build partnerships with minority communities by providing education, screening and opportunities for research and clinical trials. Meet Susan Vadaparampil, Ph.D., associate center director of Community Outreach, Engagement and Equity.

Increasing diversity in clinical trials. According to the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, less than 10% of cancer patients enrolled in clinical trials are racial or ethnic minorities. Race and ethnicity play a role in your genetic makeup. For example, if a clinical trial predominately enrolls white men, the data obtained may not be as informative regarding how the treatment will perform in women or other minority groups. To help enroll more diverse patients in trials, Moffitt is working to identify the differences in health care delivery to minority populations and establish ways to better reach those communities.

Teaming up to decrease Hispanic cancer deaths. Cancer is the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the U.S. Moffitt and Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico have been working together since 2006 to better understand how cancer is impacting this ethnic group. The goal is to develop and implement cancer care strategies to improve outcomes and prevention. In 2023, the partnership secured more than $12 million in grant funding over the next five years to continue its work.

Recruiting a more diverse workforce. Minority patients report feeling more comfortable seeing providers from their same background. In 2018, Moffitt launched the Faculty Diversity in Oncology Program, a faculty member engagement network that encourages a diverse group of Moffitt team members to collaborate and recruit from their own communities. When the group formed, there were 15 Black or African American faculty members. Currently, there are 24.

Tackling LGBTQ disparities. The LGBTQ community has long been a medically underserved minority population in the U.S. Moffitt launched the first nationwide survey to identify potential gaps in attitudes, knowledge and institutional practices for LGBTQ patients. Utilizing the data collected from the survey, Moffitt partnered with other cancer centers to launch an online cultural competency training program in 2019.

Researching inequality in breast cancer. In Black women, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. According to the American Cancer Society, Black women have a 4% lower incidence rate of breast cancer than white women, but a 40% higher breast cancer death rate. Medical oncologist Kimberley Lee, M.D., focuses her research on health care delivery and how to close the disparity gap between Black and white women. Learn more about her and her research here.

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