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by Dr. Reggie Tucker-Seeley   |   August 11, 2022

The Importance of Health Equity

Anyone who has navigated the healthcare delivery system in the United States has seen how where we live influences access to the care we get, and where we work influences the type and quality of health insurance to pay for care. Research has also clearly shown that demographic characteristics, such as race, can also impact our access to health care and the quality of primary care and specialty care we receive.1 These differences in health and healthcare are called health disparities. Health disparities exist in prostate cancer related outcomes, such as: racial/ethnic differences in screening and treatment for prostate cancer, location-based differences in the quality of prostate cancer care, and socioeconomic differences in the quality of life after prostate cancer treatment.   

ZERO is committed to eliminating disparities in prostate cancer and ending prostate cancer for all families. It is our goal for everyone to have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive prostate cancer, regardless of race, the financial resources one has or has access to, or where one lives. This aspiration is called health equity. Achieving health equity requires removing obstacles to healthcare and coordinated high-quality specialty care; and ensuring that families have the resources to manage their health and to navigate the primary and specialty healthcare delivery system.   

One of the starkest disparities in prostate cancer is experienced by Black men.  Specifically, Black men are approximately 1.5 times more likely to get prostate cancer and more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer, compared to White men.2 It has been suggested that these disparities between Black men and other racial/ethnic groups are due to “a combination of social (e.g., racism), economic, access to care, environmental, lifestyle, and genetic ancestry differences.”3

ZERO is working to reduce the burden of prostate cancer for everyone AND to eliminate the differences for Black men in that burden. Efforts to achieve health equity attempt to ensure that all groups managing a prostate cancer diagnosis, but especially those at greatest risk, achieve their best health possible. ZERO’s focus on equity is not a zero-sum effort (where one group’s gain is another group’s loss); that is, working to eliminate racial disparities doesn’t take away from our work to reduce the burden of prostate cancer for all groups. Yet, a lack of an explicit focus on the challenges of the most vulnerable in our community, over time, impedes our ability to zero out prostate cancer for everyone. The Black Men’s Prostate Cancer Initiative was established at ZERO to work toward the elimination of racial disparities in prostate cancer. For more information on this initiative, please visit https://zerocancer.org/get-support/black-mens-prostate-cancer-initiative/ .

References

  1. Richardson, L. D., & Norris, M. (2010). Access to health and health care: how race and ethnicity matter. Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine: A Journal of Translational and Personalized Medicine, 77(2), 166-177.
  2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures for African American/Black People 2022-2024. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, 2022.
  3. Chowdhury-Paulino, I. M., Ericsson, C., Vince Jr, R., Spratt, D. E., George, D. J., & Mucci, L. A. (2021). Racial disparities in prostate cancer among black men: epidemiology and outcomes. Prostate cancer and prostatic diseases, 1-6.