WASHINGTONKnowledge, 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.