Improving Cancer Care for Underserved Populations

The Alliance Shares Considerations to Inform Health Policy

The Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care (Alliance), an initiative funded by the Merck Foundation, comprises six program partners working to advance health equity. Their interventions have demonstrated that multiple components are required to address disparities in cancer care. Interventions implemented by Alliance program partners included technology solutions to identify underserved and at-risk patients, specially trained personnel working with patients to reduce barriers to care, and community partners to support health promotion activities.

Comprehensive, multifaceted programs like these can improve access to high-quality cancer care. State and federal policy strategies are essential to improve cancer care delivery and to support the work of addressing disparities for vulnerable and historically underserved populations.

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Un Abrazo Intervention May Help Address Distress, Anxiety, and Depression in Cancer Co-Survivors

Dr. Catherine Marshall’s latest publication makes the case for adding interventions like Un Abrazo Para La Familia™ to the standard of care. Data show it may improve access to mental health care and help support vulnerable and underserved populations.

Family caregivers, or cancer co-survivors, are unpaid volunteers who spend time and energy caring for and fearing for a loved one undergoing cancer treatment (a cancer survivor). There are approximately 2.8 million people providing this type of informal care in the United States. A caregiver may work closely with cancer care clinical teams, administer drugs, report any concerns on behalf of the patient, manage health insurance claims, and keep other family members informed of the patient’s condition. Many who have taken up this role have reported lacking resources or support. Reports show that rates of depression for cancer patients and their loved ones is approximately twice as high as for people who live in the same communities. Caregiving is often characterized as a public health crisis.

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New Alliance Infographic: Eliminating Barriers to Care in Oncology

BARRIERS TO CARE can affect a person’s ability to access patient-centered cancer care. What are some of the most commonly reported ones?

Interviews were conducted with key stakeholders from across the six Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care grantee sites to better understand their perspectives on their most important accomplishments, challenges faced, and lessons learned in their work to improve care coordination and access to care.

Some of the questions touched on health disparities, with grantees sharing their experiences and those of their patients. They described a wide variety of factors that influence a person’s ability to access high-quality, equitable cancer care. We collected some of their most common responses here.

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Supportive Cancer Care Models and Equity – Reaching the Underserved through Telehealth


The world has changed significantly over the past year, but the needs of vulnerable and underserved patients remain as urgent as ever. Supportive care interventions aim to prevent and treat physical, psychological, social, and spiritual problems related to cancer. Alliance program partners are improving the quality of life of vulnerable and underserved persons with cancer through supportive care programs that aim to address their psychosocial concerns and reduce barriers to care. As many clinical centers around the country have had to increase their reliance on telehealth to deliver safe cancer care, the Alliance sites, too, have been working to adapt to the new world order.

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Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care Webinar

Bridging Primary Care and Oncology in the Era of Patient-Centered Cancer Care: Challenges, Opportunities and Lessons Learned

The role of primary care in cancer control is expanding, due in part to an increased emphasis on cancer care delivery that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values (Committee on Quality of Health Care in America. Institute of Medicine, 2001). Current research data shows that Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) have a positive impact on early cancer diagnosis, treatment outcomes, and survivorship support, improving the quality of life of cancer patients across the continuum of care (Coburn & Collingridge, 2015).

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U-M School of Nursing to Lead National Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care

The $15 million effort, funded by the Merck Foundation, will take a multifaceted approach to improving patient-centered care, support and outcomes.

ANN ARBOR, MI. – The University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) has been selected to serve as the National Program Office (NPO) for the newly-formed Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care (Alliance). It brings together a coalition of six influential academic health centers to help improve the delivery of care for cancer patients.

Continue reading at the UMSN website.