“Working Together to Ensure Everyone Gets Equal Care”

12/30/2016

“Working Together to Ensure Everyone Gets Equal Care”
Op-Ed for Marcus C. Evans Jr., State Representative of Illinois’ 33rd District

Working Together to Ensure Everyone Gets Equal Care
By: Marcus C. Evans Jr., State Representative of Illinois’ 33rd District

December 2016

This year, I celebrated my 10th anniversary of being a cancer survivor. I am thankful and grateful for the care and treatment experience from my doctors and staff.

Unfortunately, not everyone with cancer, particularly African Americans, get the chance at this outcome. African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a deadly blood cancer called multiple myeloma.

According to research presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncologists Meeting, African Americans with multiple myeloma are less likely to get the same care as white Americans and often face delays in getting treatment.

Even though myeloma treatments are an appropriate standard of care for both groups, African Americans are 50% less likely to get a stem cell transplant and 11% less likely to get novel combination therapies.Treating cancer early improves a patient’s chances of surviving, but the time between diagnosis and the start of treatment is 35% longer for African Americans.

It is both disturbing and surprising that such disparities still exist within our health care system, but it is even more alarming that this is the case in myeloma where African Americans are at a higher risk than others. The good news is they are often diagnosed with a less aggressive form of the disease and may have a better prognosis, provided they get the proper care.

Diagnosis of myeloma, or of any disease should not depend on skin color, amount of money a person makes or any other factor. As a cancer survivor, advocate and elected official, I am committed to working together with everyone in our community to ensure everyone has access to the same quality health care and appropriate treatments.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has made addressing health disparities a top priority and has been working hard to improve public health through community partnerships and outreach to specific minority populations.

Many organizations have stepped up to address this important issue and provide resources for those efforts. These groups include the International Myeloma Foundation, the National Black Church Initiative and Standing in the Gaap (https://www.facebook.com/StandingInTheGaap/).

When it comes to multiple myeloma, we need more education and awareness within our African American communities. Everyone has an important role in resolving health disparities. Doctors must also learn about these risks, the signs and symptoms of disease to improve diagnosis and treatment. Finally, my fellow policymakers need to prioritize policies that remove barriers to quality healthcare and access to life-saving medicines. Working together, we can help close the treatment gaps in cancer and all diseases.



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