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Cancer Disparities

About Initiative to Eliminate Cancer Disparities


Minorities are often in jeopardy of missing opportunities for cancer prevention, early diagnosis, and state-of-the-art treatment. The following IECD committees advance DF/HCC’s efforts to reduce disparities in the delivery of cancer care.

Cultural Competency Committee

The goal of the emerging field of cultural competence in health care is to improve providers’ ability to understand, communicate with, and care for patients from diverse backgrounds. Our Cultural Competency efforts are focused on understanding and implementing ways to improve the effectiveness with which we discuss and address pertinent issues related to enhancing and providing cultural care and services. In addition, we have developed a Statement of Knowledge and Behaviors for culturally competent DF/HCC clinicians.

Our overall goals include:

  • Increase awareness of racial/ethnic disparities in cancer care
  • Provide information on non-medical factors (race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, culture, class, and language proficiency) that influence clinical decision-making
  • Provide key concepts and skills that enhance a clinician’s ability to effectively treat patients from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds
  • Demonstrate the practical application of these concepts and skills across all DF/HCC clinical settings

We have two working groups, Interpreter Services and Pastoral Care. Each group is comprised of leadership staff from DF/HCC institutions and their respective areas of expertise. The overall goal of each group is to identify and implement strategies to assist oncology clinicians to discuss and address issues of spirituality, religion and working with interpreters that will lead to the delivery of culturally sensitive care. This includes steps of making clinicians more aware of existing resources, as well as the potential for developing new tools and appropriate trainings.

Community Engagement Committee

Committed to the principle of partnership with our diverse communities, the Community Engagement Committee (CEC) encourages dialogue and collaborative activities to reduce the unequal burden of cancer. In addition to institutional representatives, the CEC also includes representatives from the National Black Leadership in Cancer, community health centers, American Cancer Society, and the Boston Black Women’s Health Initiative. Together with these partners, the CEC sponsors outreach education and screening programs, encourages community-based participatory research programs, and serves as an internal resource to DF/HCC staff interested in developing relationships with community partners. Among our approaches:

  • Clinical Trials Education
    DF/HCC recently produced “Entering a Clinical Trial: Is It Right for You?”— a culturally sensitive video and brochure for all patients considering enrollment in a clinical trial. This award-winning program is being translated into Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. Using the video and a speaker series, the CEC will work closely with community partners to educate various community groups about clinical trials. For groups not yet heavily affected by cancer, we provide information that will improve decision-making when the need for cancer treatment arises.  
  • Education and Advocacy Initiatives
    To inform communities about DF/HCC resources, we are spearheading activities to educate residents about cancer disparities and available resources. To commemorate National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, the CEC hosts a number of community events including a popular Grand Rounds health series at community health centers. We also partner with the faith-based community and have jointly developed a congregational health-needs assessment tool. In addition, funding from the Cancer Prevention Community Research Network (G. Sorensen, principal investigator) allows us to work with communities to set the research agenda for preventing cancer and educating people about enrolling in clinical trials.
  • Innovative Programs to Reduce Barriers to Care
    Patient Navigation programs are a novel approach to enhance access to care. The DF/HCC hospitals have embraced this model to help community residents find their way through the complex world of cancer care, from outpatient screening to inpatient treatment. The Patient Navigator Network provides an opportunity for Boston’s 13 navigators to share resources and best practices while supporting one another. The navigators also have been instrumental in working with Massachusetts House and Senate leaders to pass new Patient Navigation legislation.