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Promoting Health Equity: Unite for HER's Vision for Equitable Cancer Care

March 13, 2024
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For patients battling breast and ovarian cancer, access to comprehensive care should be a fundamental right, not a privilege. However, for many women of color and/or those that are underserved, this not the case. A lack of access to comprehensive care exacerbates health disparities and perpetuates unequal outcomes. Thus, addressing it should be priority for the cancer care community. For the last 14 years, Unite for HER—a national nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the health and well-being of those affected by breast and ovarian cancers—has been dedicated to achieving that goal.

“Since our inception, our mission has always been about access,” said Sue Weldon CEO and Founder of Unite for HER. As a breast cancer survivor, Weldon has first-hand experience about how challenging navigating the continuum of care can be. “It was from my own lived experience that Unite for HER was born and there were 8 words that drove our mission,” she said. “Those words were: “Good for you, I could never afford that.” According to Weldon, these words were born from a conversation she had with a young woman about all the integrative services Weldon was able to access and pay for during her cancer journey. “Those 8 words revealed that healthcare was indeed not equal,” she said. “Those 8 words set a fire under me to start this nonprofit.”

Weldon and her team at Unite for HER believe that every patient facing breast and ovarian cancer should receive the support they need. This includes access to the comprehensive education, services, and tools that improve their health and well-being, regardless of their socioeconomic status or background. "Our mission is to enrich the health and well-being of those diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancers—for life—by funding and delivering integrative therapies," Weldon said.

Addressing Disparities

Central to Unite for HER's approach is the prioritization of underserved and underrepresented communities. Recognizing the alarming disparities in cancer care outcomes—particularly among Black women who are 41% more likely to die from breast cancer than White women—Unite for HER has expanded its reach nationwide with a commitment to address these inequities head-on.

Collaboration lies at the heart of their efforts. By forming strategic partnerships with hospitals, nonprofits, and advocacy groups, the organization works collectively to ensure that underserved communities receive equitable access to integrative services, education, and support. For instance, their partnership with Touch-the Black Breast Cancer Alliance aims to enhance the quality of care for Black women and support more enrollment in cancer clinical trials—an essential step toward improving outcomes and addressing systemic barriers.

“One of the cornerstones of Unite for HER's support services is our HER Care Box and Passport Program which is mailed directly to individual's home,” Weldon shared. Upon registering for their Wellness Program, newly diagnosed patients with breast, ovarian, or metastatic breast cancer, receive a curated package containing educational resources, self-care products, and a Wellness Passport. “Each Wellness Passport is worth $2,000 of integrative therapies and services,” Weldon explained. “It is the hallmark of our program.”

The Wellness Passport Program empowers patients to craft personalized care plans by accessing a diverse range of services, from nutrition consults and virtual cooking classes to meditation and acupuncture. Through their provider network, patients receive these services at no personal cost, which according to Weldon, enhances their treatment adherence, reduces stress, and improves their overall quality of life. This impact is backed by data. 

A recent survey of patients with metastatic breast cancer enrolled in the program revealed significant improvements in quality of life, stress reduction, and decreased reliance on medications for side effects. These findings, presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, underscore the tangible benefits of integrative therapies in cancer care. They include:

• 97% of patients agree that Unite for HER made a positive impact on their quality of life with cancer.
• 93% of patients reported a reduced level of stress.
• 80% of patients reported significant improvements in their treatment side effects.
• 28% of patients reported being able to eliminate or reduce at least 1 prescribed medication to manage side effects.
• 94% of patients reported that the Unite for HER program allowed them to adhere better to their treatment plan.

Connect with Unite for HER

For healthcare providers and cancer programs and practices seeking to connect their patients with Unite for HER's resources, visit their website to learn more. Their wellness team is ready to serve and if you know of someone that would benefit from their program, please visit www.uniteforher.org/applyusa. And if you have any questions, email their team at info@uniteforher.org. 

“Patients constantly reach out to express their extreme gratitude to Unite for HER through calls, emails, and letters, wanting to explain their dire need for support and offer thanks to Unite for HER,” Weldon said. She went on to share a testimonial from a beneficiary of the program:

“I’m grateful for this opportunity because having to worry about food during treatment is a big stress for me. When I was on an unpaid medical leave from work for a year during my active treatment, I would starve just so I had enough money for transportation to my appointments and to pay my medical bills. Being able to choose food without worrying will help me tremendously. No one deserves to feel this helpless so thank you for your program.” 

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