Improving Cancer Health Equity at the Local Level

Published: Oct 11 2022

An interview with leaders from the Oncology Patient Advocacy and Engagement Team

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We sat down with Scott Campbell and Lisa Cruz, Head and Associate Director of Patient Advocacy & Engagement (PA&E), respectively, to learn more about patient advocacy within the Takeda Oncology Business Unit (OBU) and the recently launched Improving Health Equity in Cancer: A Community Grant Program.


Let’s start at the beginning. Why is patient advocacy so important for people with cancer?

Scott: Patient advocacy organizations play a vital role in easing the burden people experience while navigating a cancer diagnosis. At Takeda, the Oncology PA&E team engages with and supports patient organizations at the global, national and regional levels to help raise awareness of cancer, educate and empower the community, improve health equity

Tell us about Improving Health Equity in Cancer: A Community Grant Program.

Scott_Campbel.jpgScott Campbell, Head of Patient Advocacy & Engagement

Lisa Cruz.JPGLisa Cruz, Associate Director of Patient Advocacy & Engagement

Lisa:This is a competitive grant program and a first-of-its-kind effort for the OBU, which is exciting. We’re making up to $1 million in funding available to support ongoing or new initiatives driven by community-based organizations addressing the needs of medically underserved people with cancer. The application period is officially open!

Where did the idea for a community grant program originate?

Scott: We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to reach their full health potential and are dedicated to addressing the longstanding issue of cancer health inequities with the same urgency that we discover and develop new treatments. As a leading oncology organization, we believe we have a responsibility to partner throughout the healthcare community to identify solutions that will advance health equity for medically underserved people with cancer. This includes empowering local patient advocacy organizations on the front lines of this work to truly move the needle.

Lisa: Insights gathered from the oncology patient advocacy community about the importance of community engagement gave us an aha moment. We realized great things were happening on the ground to combat health inequality. Instead of creating something new, we could make an indelible impact by investing locally and harnessing the power of the community to effect change. We really built the community grant program around that strategy.

There are so many barriers to achieving equitable outcomes in people with cancer. How did you narrow the focus to three areas for the CGA? 

Lisa: We conducted a comprehensive landscape analysis to understand the barriers to health equity in cancer, specifically lung cancer and multiple myeloma. It was clear there was a tremendous amount of work to be done. It was difficult, but we worked together with leaders in cancer patient advocacy to narrow the focus to three key areas with high potential for measurable progress at the local level. These include:

  • Awareness: Knowledge gaps resulting from limited access to and uptake of relevant and culturally appropriate health information
  • Access: Limited access to specialists and treatments and awareness of optimal care
  • Screening/Testing: Disparities in molecular testing and access to screening and targeted therapy use resulting in later stage diagnosis and worse outcomes for underserved patient communities

What is the ultimate goal of the program?

Lisa: We hope this program will catalyze real change and result in more health equity initiatives that include authentic and sustainable community engagement and possibly even models for other communities.

Scott: Further to that point, achieving healthcare equity and access is not a project that a single organization can tackle alone. We are proud to be a part of the process and will continue to drive efforts as both a business priority and a moral imperative.

Drumroll, please … when will the winners be announced?

Lisa: We are accepting applications now through December 21, 2022 and will be announcing winners in the first quarter of 2023.

To apply for a competitive grant, visit the Takeda Support Portal. You can learn more about how Takeda prioritizes the interests of people living with cancer here.