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Black History Month Addresses Health and Wellness in Oncology and Beyond

February 9, 2022

Each year, February 1 marks the start of Black History Month, for which a specific theme is chosen. The theme for 2022—health and wellness in the Black community—mirrors ACCC’s mission of reducing health disparities in cancer care and outcomes. Recognizing the importance of Black health and wellness is essential to creating diverse and inclusive cancer care teams that can further health equity throughout our healthcare system.

There is good reason for the theme chosen for this year’s Black History Month. Collectively, Black Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial/ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers, and Black men have the highest cancer incidence rate in this country. According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, “At this point in the 21st century, our understanding of Black health and wellness is broader and more nuanced than ever. … We are determined to create a platform that shines a light on the multiple facets of Black health and wellness through education and activism. There is much to uncover, amplify, question, and correct.”

This year’s theme asks us to recognize the many initiatives that members of the Black community have pioneered to identify and decrease existing health disparities. In many of these initiatives, Black community leaders developed local health programs and clinics and used social media and other outlets to work toward multiple goals, including preventing disease and destigmatizing mental health needs in the Black community.

Addressing and decreasing racial disparities in oncology is a key concern for ACCC, as health equity in cancer care delivery is a crucial goal of the organization. In advocating for this goal, ACCC adds a health equity lens to each of its education initiatives, advocacy efforts, and clinical tools. Below are a few examples of the work ACCC is doing to address Black health and wellness in the oncology community.

Overcoming Disparities in Prostate Cancer

A recent report found that the incidence of prostate cancer is almost 80 percent higher in non-Hispanic Black people than in non-Hispanic White people, and the death rate for Black individuals with prostate cancer is more than double that of those in every other group. Addressing these disparities in a clinical practice setting requires providers to recognize that inequities in care exist and to commit to efforts to provide equitable care to all patients. ACCC is working with cancer programs to identify practical strategies for providing equitable care that can help improve early cancer detection and treatment for vulnerable patients.

In a recent publication, ACCC identified four cancer programs that have developed strategies to overcome disparities in prostate cancer care. Profiles of each program demonstrate a broad range of approaches to creating change and improving prostate cancer detection and treatment. In addition, ACCC’s patient and provider prostate cancer resource library is a curated list that incorporates publications, tools, and other assets about decreasing disparities in care, including an on-demand webinar on community engagement strategies.

Prioritizing Members and their Communities

In its peer-reviewed journal, Oncology Issues, ACCC incorporates the voices and lived experiences of its members and their communities as they address health equity in oncology through education, community outreach, and quality improvement.One recent article featured Rev. Tammie Denyse, a survivor of breast cancer, and her work to empower Black women with breast cancer through her nonprofit organization, Carrie’s TOUCH. After Rev. Denyse’s own clinical trial experience during her cancer treatment—she was the only Black female participant and was given no information about how the drugs used in the study may affect Black women—she wanted to change the narrative. By initiating Project SOAR: Speaking Our African American Realities, Rev. Denyse helps ensure that Black women with breast cancer have the opportunity to share their stories so their experiences can inform the development of oncology pathways as they relate to Black women and their needs.

Other ACCC health equity resources for engaging with underserved and underrepresented patient populations include:

  • Achieving Health Equity in the Psychosocial Treatment of Cancer Pain: These recordings from a collaborative workshop discuss how to deliver the solutions needed to make lasting changes in oncology care delivery.
  • Practical Solutions to Better Engage Cancer Professionals with Communities of Color: This webinar convened an expert panel to review available data on cancer care disparities, discuss the needs of disadvantaged populations, and share practical solutions and methods for implementing bias training and engaging cancer programs and practices with local community representatives.
  • Ask Me 3®: This video teaches cancer team members how to better anticipate and respond to patients’ concerns by using a clear, empathetic, and effective approach to communication throughout the care continuum.
  • Advancing Clinical Trial Equity: This mini-podcast from ACCC’s CANCER BUZZ discusses the critical role oncology advanced practitioners can play in moving the needle on equity and inclusion in cancer clinical trials.
  • National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week: June 16-22, 2022, is designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Oncology Center of Excellence as a week to increase cancer awareness among the Black community. Join ACCC and others again this year as we raise awareness about cancer care disparities via social media using #BlackFamCan.

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