Improving Cancer Health Equity at the Local Level| Takeda Oncology │ Leadership │ Article
Improving Cancer Health Equity at the Local Level
This article was originally published on October 11, 2022, and was updated on March 29, 2023
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 Improving Health Equity in Cancer: A Community Grant Program. We spoke with them when the grant was launched and after the grantees were chosen to get a holistic view of the program.
Scott Campbell, Head of Patient Advocacy & Engagement
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.
Lisa Cruz, Associate Director of Patient Advocacy & Engagement
Tell us about Improving Health Equity in Cancer: A Community Grant Program.
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.
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.
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, and 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 … who were the grant winners?
Scott: We are thrilled to be able to contribute funds to 18 incredible organizations through the program. Our goal was to empower grassroots efforts that catalyze real change within their communities, and are proud to know that each of these organizations plays a key role in generating awareness, access and facilitating screening and testing.
One awardee, The Northeast Georgia Health System, is large community-based hospital system that serves over 13 counties which include mostly rural and diverse suburban communities. They are utilizing the funds to support their lung cancer screening program, which, since its inception seven years ago, has successfully increased lung cancer screenings for at risk populations in their region. Specifically, they have implemented standardized biomarker testing procedures for these patients so that the most timely and appropriate care is delivered. With the high burden of lung cancer in their region, these programs are critical to improving outcomes for people facing a lung cancer diagnosis.
Another, BLKHLTH, designs and implements community events, programs and workshops to educate their community and break down the barriers that Black people experience in accessing health-promoting information and services. They have started important conversations at the local level, including educating health care professionals around understanding how racism has been a fundamental cause of health disparities and exploring how this connects to poor health outcomes. They have also partnered with other organizations to raise awareness of disease areas that disproportionally affect Black Americans, like colorectal cancer, and provide resources for prevention, detection and treatment.
A full list of the grant awardees can be found below.
Advocates for Community Wellness, Inc
Cancer Services of Allen County, Inc.
Dia de la Mujer Latina Inc
Grinnell Regional Medical Center
LAHC-Leaders Advancing and Helping Communities
Legacy Training, Inc.
Little Red Door Cancer Agency
Make Well Known Foundation
National LGBT Cancer Network
Nebraska Cancer Coalition
Northeast Georgia Health System
Nueva Vida Inc
Patient Empowerment Network
The Chrysalis Initiative
Voice of The Experienced
Women's Cancer Resource Center
Worth the Wait
You can learn more about how Takeda prioritizes the interests of people living with cancer here.