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by Jarrad Aguirre, MD, MBA   |   November 20, 2020

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. 

Myovant Sciences is a healthcare company focused on redefining care through purpose-driven science, empowering medicines, and transformative advocacy. Earlier this year, we launched a grant program called Forward for Health Equity to help address these challenges. We are seeking U.S.-based non-profit organizations focused on innovative ways to improve healthcare access for men with prostate cancer and women with uterine fibroids, another disease characterized by significant racial disparities in care and outcomes (Gobio). We will award as many as four grants of up to $50,000 each to these organizations, for a total of $200,000, and we are currently accepting applications through December 31 (for more information, please contact forwardforhealthequity@myovant.com). 

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.