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‘Awareness Is Not Enough’ to Eliminate Racial Cancer Disparities

‘Awareness Is Not Enough’ to Eliminate Racial Cancer Disparities

WASHINGTON—Knowledge, research, and education alone will not end the
cancer disparities among American populations, said numerous speakers at the
opening session of the 8th Biennial Symposium on Minorities, the Medically
Underserved, and Cancer, presented by the Intercultural Cancer Council (ICC)
and jointly sponsored by Baylor College of Medicine, Houston.

In keeping with the symposium’s official theme, "Awareness is not
enough," Claude Allen, JD, ML, deputy secretary of the Department of
Health and Human Services (HHS), declared the "elimination of all
health disparities" to be an important commitment of HHS. Although US
life expectancy at birth has hit an all-time high of 76.9 years, black life
expectancy continues to lag behind that of whites by about 5 years.

Various minority groups, he added, bear heavier burdens of various
cancers than whites. Blacks, for example, have high rates of a number of
cancers including prostate. Hispanic women, meanwhile, have the highest
rates of cervical cancer, and Asian and Pacific Islanders have the highest
rates of liver and stomach cancers.

HHS will "mobilize public and private resources" in several
areas of public health, including cancer screening and management, he
promised. Education is particularly crucial; blacks often "delay doctor
visits as long as possible," he said, and fail to follow prescribed
regimens when they do go. In an effort to change these behavior patterns,
HHS is partnering with media outlets such as ABC radio to convey the
importance of regular checkups in a form that will appeal to black
audiences.

Mr. Allen also described the 5-year plan for research on health
disparities being developed by NIH. President Bush, he added, is committed
to doubling the number of community health centers.

New Center on Minority Health

An important step toward eliminating inequities was taken in January
2001, when the Office of Minority Health at the National Institutes of
Health (NIH) became the National Center on Minority Health and Health
Disparities, said the Center’s director, John Ruffin, PhD.

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