Half the world’s population lacks access to the full range of essential health services. When it comes to cancer, many of us are denied basic care, despite the fact that we live in a time of awe-inspiring advancements in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
This is the equity gap – and it’s costing lives. People who seek cancer care hit barriers at every turn. Income, education, geographical location and discrimination based on ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability and lifestyle are just a few of the factors that can negatively affect care. The most disadvantaged groups are also more likely to have increased exposures to a host of other risk factors, like tobacco, unhealthy diet or environmental hazards.
The gap affects everyone. You might feel like the equity gap doesn’t impact you personally, but it likely does affect someone you know. While it’s more pronounced in low- and middle-income countries, well-resourced countries show dramatic disparities too. It’s almost guaranteed that the gap affects you or people in your community.
We can close the gap. The reality today is that who you are and where you live could mean the difference between life and death. It isn’t fair. But we can change this.
Collectively, we can reduce this inequity by:
- educating the public about cancer prevention;
- equipping healthcare professionals with skills and knowledge including about how inequity influences cancer care;
- strengthening primary health care delivered in communities;
- addressing through policy and programmes some of the social and economic factors that can negatively affect people’s health;
- increasing the resources – meaning both money and people – dedicated to cancer research, and tracking the burden of cancer nationally to more effectively shape our investments;
- implementing country-specific cancer prevention and control plans that address each country’s unique needs and resources.
There has been some progress however. Where there is progress, there is hope.
Here are some examples that offer hope.
- In Nigeria, the Sebeccly Cancer Care and Support Centre helped patients navigate and access earlier cancer diagnosis and treatment with the launch of the digital tool Oncopadi.
- In Canada, several organisations collaborated across sectors on a series of measures aimed at closing the gap in healthcare for indigenous populations.
- Around the world, governments raised USD 8.817 billion in 2021 for Gavi, a global health partnership, to provide 84 million girls in low-resourced regions with HPV vaccinations to protect them from cervical cancer.