NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research NewsNCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
February 21, 2006 • Volume 3 / Number 8 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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Community UpdateCommunity Update

Workshop Seeks to Turn the Tide Against Cancer Health Disparities

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One of NCI's strategic priorities is to overcome cancer health disparities - how the burden of cancer disproportionately affects underserved, racial, and ethnic minority populations. During the summer and fall of 2005, a committee co-chaired by Lenora Johnson, director of the Office of Education and Special Initiatives, and Dr. L. Michelle Bennett, associate director for science in the Center for Cancer Research, planned the unique 2-day workshop, "Enhancing Interactions To Reduce Cancer Health Disparities."

When the conference began on Nov. 17, 2005, more than 250 NCI employees - staff from nearly every NCI division, office, and center - convened for a day of dialogue and discussions. The next morning they joined working groups to consider seven specific areas of concern in cancer health disparities. Participants had been assigned to groups in advance and received background material to enhance the discussion and enable the breakout groups to outline steps to make an impact in each of the areas.

Since November, it has become clear that a coherent vision emerged from the workshop, according to Dr. Sanya Springfield, acting director of NCI's Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities. "NCI has a crucial role - to lead the nation's effort to eliminate cancer health disparities - and the institute must incorporate this central priority into every aspect of what we do."

In summarizing the event for NCI's Executive Committee, the co-chairs wrote, "This historic workshop energized the NCI community, catalyzed NCI's commitment, and raised awareness about the need to collaborate across the institute in programs and projects focused on cancer health disparities research."

NCI Deputy Director and Deputy Director for Cancer Care Delivery Systems Dr. Mark Clanton noted, "It is crucial that NCI maintain the momentum from the workshop and begin to build the capacity and an infrastructure to truly transform the cancer care landscape. NCI has a long way to go, but I have no doubt we can make this happen."

In addition to a vision, goals, and next steps to overcome cancer health disparities, plans were proposed for 1) studying genetic and biological differences, 2) narrowing the gap between research and practice, 3) expanding clinical trials, 4) identifying sociocultural and behavioral influences, 5) enhancing cancer care delivery, 6) expanding education and training for cancer care professionals and researchers, and 7) improving communications research.

To sustain the workshop's momentum, there must be an infrastructure to shepherd the workshop's plans and ideas, communicate about progress and problems, and help to integrate the elimination of cancer health disparities into all major NCI initiatives.

"We need to strengthen, integrate, and apply the science of health disparities to inform our priorities and actions," commented Dr. Robert Croyle, director of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences. "By using surveillance data more systematically and developing sustainable interventions that can be adopted in underserved communities, we can close the discovery-to-delivery gap that exacerbates disparities across the cancer continuum."