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U.S. Funding Targets Cancer Rates in Low-Income Neighborhoods

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) will coordinate a program aimed at lowering cancer rates in low-income neighborhoods.

With $50 million allocated over five years, the NCI will oversee five Centers for Cancer Control Research in Persistent Poverty Areas to address institutional and structural problems that lead to higher-than-average cancer rates in low-income communities. The Persistent Poverty Initiative falls under the umbrella of the Biden administration’s ongoing Cancer Moonshot.

Program administrators define persistent poverty as areas where 20% or more of residents have lived below the federal poverty line for the past 30 years. Each of the five centers will work with targeted communities on lowering obesity rates through access to better nutrition and more physical activity. Researchers also will help residents quit tobacco and improve general living conditions. These centers plan to become pipelines for specially trained investigators who can conduct multilevel intervention research in underserved communities.

“Persistent poverty is a place-based and community phenomenon that reflects a failure of the structures and institutions in society, including healthcare,” said Shobha Srinivasan, PhD, senior advisor for health disparities and health equity at the NCI. “Conducting research to understand the connections between institutions — such as social, economic, and health systems — and persistent poverty is the only way to inform changes to social conditions and determinants of health that will ultimately improve overall health, cancer control, and cancer outcomes.”

Scientists from the American Cancer Society recently reported that children with parents who were diagnosed with cancer were more likely to struggle with food insecurity, housing instability, and trouble with other social determinants of health vs. children with parents who have not been diagnosed with cancer.

“Parents with a history of cancer are often saddled with worry about paying for food, the rent or mortgage, and other monthly bills,” said Zhiyuan “Jason" Zheng, PhD, senior principal scientist of health services research at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study. “Our earlier research has shown us how a parent’s diagnosis of cancer can impact a child’s physical and mental health, but not much was known about the social and economic impact until now. We hope these findings will help shine a spotlight on this important issue.”

For more on this and other related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Hospital Case Management and Medical Ethics Advisor.