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From COVID-19 to Cancer: Overcoming Health Inequities Together

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed – and exacerbated – profound disparities in healthcare outcomes in the United States. Black, Latino, and Native Americans are more likely to be infected with COVID-19, and Black Americans are twice as likely to die from it. Many people from both the public and private sectors are trying to solve this problem and ensure that COVID-19 does not disproportionately impact these communities. 

This attention and collaboration on inequity is good news for healthcare and, with commitment and sustained focus, has the potential to reach far beyond COVID-19. The fact is healthcare disparities affect outcomes for many other diseases – cancer included. They are a consequence of centuries of structural inequities, and they will continue to impact our country unless we work together to solve them.

Prostate cancer is an especially troubling example. It has the largest racial disparity of any major cancer: like COVID-19, it kills Black men twice as often as white men, in part because Black men tend to be diagnosed at later stages of the disease. One in seven Black men are expected to develop prostate cancer during their lifetimes, compared with one in nine white men.

This problem will still exist long after COVID-19 subsides. And we need to address it now. 

What can be done? We know that increasing access to high-quality healthcare can make a difference. Black men are less likely to be screened for prostate cancer, more likely to be treated with “watchful waiting” as opposed to more proactive treatment, and less likely to receive intensive follow-up care. We need to do better. 

We realize this is only one part of the solution – health disparities are entrenched and multifaceted problems, and there is no “magic bullet.” But we are confident that, by working with partners and communities who care deeply about these issues, we can help push healthcare in the right direction – and, ultimately, reduce or eliminate the the inequities that undermine the health of so many men and women in the United States. 

ZERO has previously written about the “10 Things African-Americans Should Know About Prostate Cancer.” We’d like to add an 11th: you don’t have to face it alone.


White male smiling with glasses in front of office building

Written by Jarrad Aguirre, MD, MBA. Jarrad Aguirre is the co-founder and CEO of Miga Health. Jarrad was previously the head of strategic partnerships and innovation at Myovant Sciences from July 2017 to June 2021, a biotech focused on women’s health and prostate cancer. In his role, he oversees corporate communications, advocacy, and digital strategy — in addition to serving on the Executive Committee. He previously served as Chief of Staff / Special Projects in the Office of the CEO.

Prior to joining Myovant, Aguirre worked as a physician, researcher, and consultant across the spectrum of health and healthcare, including at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School), The Colorado Health Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Collective Health.