The Costs of Cancer: Part Two - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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1229_lif-costs-of-cancer-2When it comes to cancer, blacks are diagnosed at later stages and bear a greater burden in the rate of cancer deaths than whites, reports the National Cancer Institute (See The Costs of Cancer: Part One.)

Black men were more than two times more likely to die from prostate cancer in 2005, as compared with non-Hispanic white men, and black women were 34% more likely to die from breast cancer, compared with non-Hispanic white women, reports the Office of Minority Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

There are several theories that explain why blacks have higher mortality rates from cancer. They range from lack of adequate healthcare to distrust of the medical community.

Lack of insurance is certainly a problem. Almost 20% of African Americans, compared with 10.4% of non-Hispanic whites, were uninsured in 2007, according to Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Policy in the United States, a U.S. Census report.

Dr. Stephen B. Thomas, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Minority Health, says insurance is important, but adds that it is not a substitute for education and prevention.

“We’ve missed the focus,” Thomas says. “We focus on getting people insurance, but will they use it? Even if they have the insurance, if they don’t trust the medical care system they’re not going to use it.”

Many older African Americans distrust health professionals because of historic disenfranchisement such as the Tuskegee Experiment, where black men were misled and used as test subjects for syphilis research without consent. Additionally, a study published in the November 2008 issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention shows that African Americans are less likely to respond to negative messages about cancer screenings.

To combat the fear that many blacks often associate with cancer and other health concerns, Thomas and other doctors at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) created The Healthy Black Family Project (HBFP), an initiative that focuses on disease prevention by urging participants to take control of their health. The project, facilitated in the Kingsley Association Community Center in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, a low-income black community, offers classes such as body toning, African dance, yoga, and nutrition, and releases a monthly newsletter to 6,000 households in the area.

“We learned early on people won’t show up to a cancer prevention class, but they will show up to go to yoga class,” says Thomas, adding that the African American cancer care program is headquartered inside of the HBFP. “We bring the professionals into that setting, and then they have a chance to get the message out. We created an environment where it is okay to talk about how to control and prevent cancer.”

The project, which is a part of the Center for Minority Health at the GSPH, also ran a series of public service announcements in 2005 showing residents from the community–a family and two best friends–engaging in physical activity and nutrition classes.


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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.