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Increased NIH Funding Needed to Combat Cancer in Minorities, Medically Underserved

Increased NIH Funding Needed to Combat Cancer in Minorities, Medically Underserved

The Intercultural Cancer Council (ICC) is urging a 100%, or at least a $300 million, increase in federal funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to reverse the cancer inequities documented in a recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) report entitled, The Unequal Burden of Cancer: An Assessment of NIH Research and Program for Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved.

The IOM report released in January 1999 prompted the US Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, which sets the budget for the NIH, to hold a hearing to investigate the organization’s commitment to minority cancer research. At the hearing, subcommittee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) asked the ICC and other expert witnesses to submit comments and recommendations. The ICC is a national coalition focused on addressing the disparities in the incidence and mortality of ethnic minority and medically underserved communities.

“The IOM report confirmed what we’ve known all along—that ethnic minorities and the medically underserved have not shared equally in the nation’s progress against cancer. Anything short of a 100% increase cannot begin to address the tragic disparities in cancer incidence and mortality in these communities,” said Lovell Jones, PhD, ICC co-chair and professor and director of experimental gynecology and endocrinology at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

National Network

The ICC’s call for increased NIH funding to implement the IOM report recommendations was deliberated at its recent conference held in Washington, DC. The conference served as a forum for the ICC to launch a national network of several hundred individuals—ranging from cancer survivors to health professionals and scientists—who are dedicated to securing the funding increases and other policy changes necessary for ending the current disparities in cancer research, prevention, early detection, and treatment among ethnic minorities and the medically underserved.

“Clearly, the ICC must step up its efforts if we are truly to end the war on cancer for all people. Through the ICC National Network, we plan to push for positive policy developments and hold policymakers at all levels of government accountable to all of their constituencies,” said Susan Shinagawa, the newly elected co-chair of the ICC and a cancer survivor.

“The sad truth is that if there was equitable application of current knowledge about cancer prevention, control, and treatment—as well as continued advances in research—we would reduce cancer incidence by at least 25% and cancer mortality by 50% among ethnic minority and medically underserved populations in the United States. The ICC National Network intends to make this a reality,” said ICC member and representative of the NAACP, John Arradondo,MD, MPH.

Short-Term Goals

Other major, short-term changes that the ICC National Network will be advocating for include:

  • Immediate development of a 5-year strategic plan by the NIH, with specially targeted funding to implement the recommendations set forth in the IOM study;

  • Doubling the funding for the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program, specifically to expand data collection to include more regions with ethnic minorities and/or the medically underserved and to improve coordination with other cancer registries;

  • Doubling the funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR);

  • Increasing the CDC cancer prevention budget, including $215 million for its Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, as well as additional funding for its prostate, colorectal, and other screening efforts; and

  • Adding $10 million to the budget of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) for line-item funding, with a specific directive to expand the national Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HANES) to include all ethnic minority and underserved populations.

Long-Term Policy Goal

The ICC’ s longer-term public policy goal is to enact a comprehensive, multiagency program for national cancer prevention and control for ethnic minorities. The ICC has been advancing the idea that a highly visible national cancer coordinating entity be established that would include all federal agencies, such as the CDC, Health Resources and Services Administration, NIH Office of Minority Health, Indian Health Services and other DHHS agencies, Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, and others.

“To be victorious against the hideous diseases of cancer, the war must be fought and won across federal department and agency lines” said Susan Shinagawa. “We plan to continue and increase our dialogue and interactions with the appropriate congressional authorizing committees that have jurisdiction over health care financing, research, treatment, prevention, and education, to end the current cancer disparities.”

 
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