Health Equity and Colorectal Cancer

Fight CRC is committed to ensuring all Americans have access to quality health care and can live a healthy life, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, and socioeconomic status.

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As we mourn the tragedies that have unfolded across the country, we are driven to embrace all parts of our community to carry a banner of hope. We are asking ourselves, “What can we do? How can we be there for our community?” Our efforts require persistence and dedication to advocating for and with those who are facing unequal access to health care as well as disparities in colorectal cancer rates.

We know that you are relentless and that together we can reduce health disparities by keeping our attention focused on the challenges of our country including structural racism, poverty, and barriers to health care and preventive services.

The post-COVID re-opening of screening and surgery doors is likely to bring these inequities into tragically sharp focus, as underserved communities face greater hurdles seeking cancer-prevention and life-saving treatments. It is our responsibility to not only identify the gaps but to also advocate for equal access to care.

Fight CRC surveyed colorectal cancer patients and caregivers to find out the challenges they’re facing during the COVID-19 era. Findings included rural and Medicare populations have been disproportionately affected.

Read more.

We stand in solidarity with all members of our community and are committed to doing our part to address our country’s difficult challenges. As advocates, we can empower our community to change the status quo and take action to promote change! Use your voice. Share your story. Vote. Lives are at stake.

Together we can reduce health disparities by keeping our attention focused on the challenges of our country including structural racism, poverty, and barriers to health care and preventive services.

Colorectal Cancer: In the Pursuit of Health Equity

Fight CRC Medical Advisory Board member, Dr. Edith Mitchell, and Health Equity Committee and Board member, Dr. Fola May, were published in this ASCO Educational Book in May 2021. They sought to "outline measurable disparities, review implemented solutions, and define strategies toward ensuring that all have a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible."

What is Health Equity?

Health equity means everyone has access to quality health care and can live a healthy life, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, religion, and socioeconomic status.

Landscape of Colorectal Cancer Health Disparities

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death for men and women combined. However, colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates are not uniform across race and ethnicity. From 2012 to 2016, colorectal cancer incidence rates (the number of new cases) among Black Americans were approximately 20% higher than those for White Americans. This disparity is also seen in mortality rates, also known as death rates. From 2013 to 2017, colorectal cancer death rates for Black Americans were nearly 40% higher than for White Americans. The disparities don’t end there. Black patients are more likely to have advanced stage colorectal cancer at the time of diagnosis, meaning the disease is much more difficult to treat. 

For many late stage patients, clinical trials are a critical care option. Unfortunately, despite the higher incidence and mortality rates, Black Americans are only 60% as likely as White Americans to enroll in clinical trials. The disparity doesn’t only exist within the Black community either. Latinx/Hispanic populations represent a mere 6% of trial participants and in nearly two thirds of clinical trials, there is zero representation from Indigenous communities.

Black Americans are only 60% as likely as White Americans to enroll in clinical trials.

CRC death rates for Black Americans are ~40% higher than White Americans.

How is Fight CRC Reducing Health Disparities?

While there is no one for this multifaceted issue, Fight CRC is committed to reducing disparities. 

Advocating for legislation to address health care disparities

One policy that the patient community has been working on for some time that would be one step toward addressing health care disparities is the CLINICAL TREATMENT Act.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ben Ray Luján and Rep. Gus Bilirakis would ensure Medicaid coverage of the routine care costs of clinical trials participation for patients with life-threatening conditions in every state. Currently, this coverage varies by state, effectively preventing Medicaid patients across the country the option of participating in clinical trials. 

For many colorectal cancer patients, particularly those with late-stage colorectal cancer, there are fewer treatment options. Clinical trials represent a critical care option. Lack of coverage for the routine care costs associated with clinical trials should not be a barrier to enrollment. The impact of COVID-19 has made this legislation more important than ever as Medicaid enrollees are increasing and families are facing greater financial strain. 

Health equity through patient education

Recognizing that addressing health inequities is complex, Fight CRC has taken a holistic approach to creating patient centric content to address our community at large. We are committed to updating our patient education materials to reflect those that we serve, ensuring we represent our diverse community. 

This past summer, Fight Colorectal Cancer translated the majority of our patient education print materials, including the Clinical Trials mini mag. We serve both English and Spanish speaking communities and it became apparent that making these resources accessible was a priority. Fight CRC is working hard to ensure that these resources are available in other languages in the future, and that the content and look and feel resonates within each unique community.

Increasing diversity of clinical trial enrollment

A lack of cultural diversity in clinical trials is not new. The reasons that perpetuate this never ending cycle are deeply rooted in racism, inequalities, and biases to name a few. As an organization, we acknowledge that we are unable to solve every single facet responsible for the disparities in research and clinical trial enrollment we see today, but Fight CRC has the opportunity to make progress to ensure all members of our community access the best possible care.

  • Creating programs to raise awareness about colorectal cancer among marginalized communities. 
  • Dedication to shifting the perspective on clinical trials so that health care providers bring them up to all patients regardless of their background.
  • Educating ourselves on healthcare injustice facing many Americans so that we can better provide resources and education in a meaningful way.
  • Promise to be inclusive in representing the diversity of the country within our resources.
  • Working with health equity teams to ensure our approach and efforts are in alignment with creating a more equitable system.

Formation of the Health Equity Committee

In addition to recognizing the needs of our patients, the Health Equity Committee was formed to help shape the culture of our diversity and inclusion and better engage our employees, survivors, patients, and caregivers.

The Health Equity Committee consists of collaborative physicians, survivors, caregivers or front-line staff who serve as diversity champions and “model the way,” to address diversity issues and collectively promote health equity initiatives and to positively impact our organization and the communities we serve.