Neiman Institute intros ‘Cancer Equity Compass’ to help address disparities

It’s one thing to know that cancer disparities often correlate with deleterious social determinants of health (SDOH). It’s another to equip healthcare professionals for applying the connection to affected patient populations. A new and free heatmap-based tool promises to help, and with considerable geographic precision.

The Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute unveiled the interactive online resource June 20. Calling it the Cancer Equity Compass, or “CEC,” the organization says the visualization tool is designed to help target interventions—policies as well as programs—at areas of high need and opportunity.

The National Cancer Institute defines cancer disparities as differences between underserved groups and the general population on such measures as cancer incidence, prevalence, mortality, morbidity, survival, screening and cancer stage at diagnosis.

Neiman’s cancer compass shows the relationship between these measures and 16 SDOH metrics such as education, income, minority rates, social vulnerability and pollution. It displays these relationships in readily recognizable patterns at the level of local counties. Plus it allows users to choose cancer types to map before selecting specific counties for reporting of local community data.

The CEC’s interactive maps also let users view the country as a whole, illuminating SDOH–disparities “hot spots” at state and regional levels.

The maps concentrate on breast, prostate, colorectal and lung cancers as these are the four most common cancer types in the U.S.

In announcing the offering, the Neiman institute says it hopes the CEC will help guide researchers, community leaders, policy makers and other stakeholders as they work to reduce cancer disparities where underserved subpopulations are most acutely affected.

The announcement states the CEC stands to help users to:

  • Identify the sources and correlates of disparities—including healthcare access, socioeconomic status and community characteristics—that are fundamental to developing policy and programs for large scale impact
  • Identify high-opportunity targets for improving equity and informing solutions with data on specific populations, communities and healthcare settings
  • Enhance diversity in clinical trial recruitment and data registries through selection/recruitment of sites for more inclusive research
  • Measure year-over-year change to determine the results of equity initiatives, support improvement efforts and report impact

The announcement quotes Augusta Ochoa, MD, of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, one of seven experts who served as advisors on the CEC project.

“Disparities are multi-factorial, and solutions require integrated data to inform solutions and measure impact,” Ochoa says. “The Cancer Equity Compass provides this integration of data in a way that is useful for a wide range of stakeholders.”

Elizabeth Rula, PhD, executive director of the Neiman Institute, adds that policy to improve cancer prevention and promote equitable outcomes represents “a primary focus area for our work at the Neiman Health Policy Institute. The genesis of the Cancer Equity Compass was recognition that our extensive national healthcare data has the potential to catalyze change if we can get data-driven insights to the people who can make an impact.”

The institute credits contributing groups for supporting the CEC project, not least the American College of Radiology’s Radiology Health Equity Coalition and Amazon Web Services’ Health Equity Initiative.

Announcement here, Cancer Equity Compass here.


Dave Pearson

Dave P. has worked in journalism, marketing and public relations for more than 30 years, frequently concentrating on hospitals, healthcare technology and Catholic communications. He has also specialized in fundraising communications, ghostwriting for CEOs of local, national and global charities, nonprofits and foundations.

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