Today, people across the globe are observing World Cancer Day, not merely to raise awareness of cancer, but to ignite a Close the Care Gap movement that urgently illuminates healthcare disparities and advocates for lifesaving changes.
Healthcare disparities are barriers to the services and care necessary for optimal health, often disproportionally affecting vulnerable populations, which often include: the poor, the uneducated, the uninsured, the disabled, and the victims of violence. Factors that exacerbate these disparities frequently include food, housing, transportation or employment insecurity, substance (alcohol, tobacco, and drug) abuse, mental health issues, or residing in unsafe areas or healthcare deserts.
Disparities in cancer care exist all over the world. Even Texas, home to prestigious medical institutions like the Texas Medical Center and MD Anderson Cancer Center, confronts severe challenges.
Did you know that our great state ranks as the 7th worst state in the U.S. for health insurance?
Yet, organizations, like Gift of Life, continue striving to close the disparity gaps prevalent in Southeast Texas. For 30 years, our non-profit organization has been providing breast and prostate cancer screenings for women and men who might otherwise go without this first line of defense.
In 2023, we performed 1,473 screening mammograms, 513 diagnostic mammograms and ultrasounds, 17 biopsies, and diagnosed breast cancer in 14 women. Treatment access was then made possible through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (BCCP) and these individuals are now being navigated through care.
Last year, Gift of Life also performed 561 prostate cancer screenings and diagnosed prostate cancer in 4 men. Because Texas doesn’t offer expanded Medicaid for prostate cancer, our organization utilized the generosity of our donors and medical partners to care for these uninsured clients.
Because health literacy has been proven to prevent disease and improve health outcomes, education remains one of Gift of Life’s primary focus areas. We seek to close the care gap through educational outreach programs, like the Don’t Smoke/Vape Your Life Away program that empowers Southeast Texans to reduce cancer risk factors. Throughout the year, the organization also participates in community presentations, back-to-school events, and health fairs to share the importance of nutrition, exercise, alcohol moderation, and much more inf an ongoing effort to increase regional health literacy.
Together, initiatives like these move us closer to a future without healthcare disparities. In honor of World Cancer Day, we invite you to join our mission to bridge these gaps so that everyone has equitable access to good health.
Gwendolyn Lavalais, M.D.
Gift of Life Medical Director