Breast Health: A Glimmer of Hope Amidst a Continuing National Tragedy


With news cycles chock full of  healthcare law hysteria, true tragic disasters around the globe and golf pro indiscretions, the  U.S.’s  2009 National Health Disparities Report was unveiled this past month with little notice or fanfare.  In many ways it’s just more tragic, bad news:

Racial minorities and the poor continue to experience higher rates of mortality than their white and more-economically advantaged neighbors, and receive worse care and have less access to care than their white neighbors. Insurance, our great debate, does play into this, but when “uninsurance” is stripped from the quality of and access to health care equations, those disparities still exist.  Stunning, isn’t it, for a nation like ours in the 21st century?

In particular, access to and quality of health care for cancer and respiratory disease has gotten worse for Blacks.  These gaps have also worsened for Hispanics as well as basic treatment for heart failure. 

The reasons for such disparities are complex and are varied (cultural and language barriers, white bias, geographic access) and the report suggest more concentrated work needs to be done especially in the areas of awareness fro patients, training of providers and collaboration between health providers and community organizations.

That is one small glimmer of hope as we are part of a growing coalition of organizations including Boston community health centers and theDana-Farber Harvard Cancer Centers  that are working together to  address these areas.  In terms of outcomes there is another glimmer. The gap in the testing, detection and treatment for breast cancer among poor women has decreased slightly.  While the breast health disparity for these women is still enormous, it is gratifying to know that two decades of outreach, education and advocacy by the YWCA and hundreds of like organizations – with support from key funders like the Avon Foundation Breast Care Fund and Susan G. Komen for theCure– are slowly but steadily paying off for tens of thousands of women. We are moving the needle.

And, there is still much more to be done.  We envision and are working towards a world where all women, all people – have the same right to quality health care.  The task is enormous and we need your help. Please join our efforts to lessen the gap in health education, detection and treatment.  Learn about the issues, volunteer to help us educate and advocate, and donate to the cause.  We are making progress and we can make more if we all work together.