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Disparity Between Cancer Research and Care Delivery a ‘Moral Issue’

Disparity Between Cancer Research and Care Delivery a ‘Moral Issue’

WASHINGTON—Despite the enormous progress that researchers have made against
cancer, the unequal disease burden borne by minority and under-served
populations constitutes "a moral and ethical dilemma for society,"
said Harold P. Freeman, MD, who chairs the President’s Cancer Panel and also
serves as director of the NCI’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD).

Inequity in cancer care and outcomes is a longstanding issue, he said at
a plenary session of the 8th Biennial Symposium on Minorities, the Medically
Underserved, and Cancer. He recalled facing it as a surgeon at Harlem
Hospital and as an official of the American Cancer Society. Now, however,
its "time has come."

His appointment a year ago to head the CRCHD is indicative of a new
national commitment, he said. The CRCHD incorporates the old Office of
Special Population Research, and its director reports directly to the NCI
director.

The nation has seen great advances in biomedical knowledge in the 31
years since President Nixon declared war on cancer, Dr. Freeman said, but he
noted that "the battle has not been fought well" in many
communities, especially in those set in poor rural areas or composed of
racial minorities.

Although the racial and ethnic categories that divide Americans are
"real," Dr. Freeman continued, they are not, according to
anthropologists, based on meaningful biological differences.

Among the initiatives underway at CRCHD to end health disparities are
projects to establish sustainable infrastructures for awareness in
underserved and minority populations.

Another priority is establishing partnerships with academic institutions
that will increase these populations’ participation in clinical trials,
train health disparity researchers, and build disparity research groups that
can compete at the highest levels.

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