Advancing Equity in Cancer Care

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 40% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.1 There have been major advancements in cancer treatment; however, more work is needed to ensure that all people living with cancer receive equitable, high-quality care.

Complex interrelated social and economic factors, known as the social determinants of health, and fragmented cancer services present challenges that are magnified for people living in underserved communities. Members of racial and ethnic minority groups, those living in rural areas, low-income individuals or those without insurance are disproportionately affected by barriers to cancer care.2-4

Alliance for Equity in Cancer Care: A Merck Foundation initiative

The Merck Foundation (the “Foundation”) is supporting the Alliance for Equity in Cancer Care (“the Alliance”) in the United States with a commitment of $20 million over five years (2022-2026). The Alliance is a national, multi-site initiative that aims to advance health equity by improving timely access to high-quality, culturally responsive cancer care for patients from underserved communities.  

Alliance goals

As a collective, the Alliance program grantees will design and implement multifaceted programs to:

  • Improve coordination of care from diagnosis through survivorship
  • Strengthen patient-provider communication and patient engagement in treatment decisions
  • Build community partnerships to address barriers to cancer care related to the social determinants of health and provide psychosocial support services
  • Disseminate findings and program results to improve the delivery of equitable cancer care

Alliance for Equity in Cancer Care program grantees

Through grants to seven nonprofit health care organizations working with local community-based groups, the Foundation is supporting evidence-informed, innovative programs that will reduce health inequities and improve patient outcomes. The program grantees are:

The Foundation will also support the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® in piloting the Health Equity Report Card – a new tool to help cancer facilities deliver care more equitably – in community-based cancer care settings. The goal is to adapt the tool for use across the U.S.

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Massey Cancer Center, in partnership with the VCU Center on Health Disparities, serves as the National Program Office (NPO) for the Alliance, providing technical assistance to the program grantees, fostering peer-to-peer learning and collaboration, conducting a comprehensive cross-site evaluation, and leading efforts to disseminate program results and lessons learned through the Alliance.

  1. National Cancer Institute. (2020). Cancer Statistics. Retrieved March 9, 2022.
  2.  Mollica, Michelle A., et al. (2017) Patient experiences of cancer care: scoping review, future directions, and introduction of a new data resource: Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results-Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (SEER-CAHPS).
  3. American Cancer Society. (2020). Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos 2018-2020. Retrieved March 9, 2022. 
  4. Islami, F. et al. (2021). Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, Part 1: National Cancer Statistics. JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 113 (12).1648–1669.