This conference was held in Washington, D.C. and co-sponsored by the Intercultural Cancer Council on March 24-28, 2004. Report by Ann Fonfa who was given a scholarship to attend.
It brought together almost 1800 people from around the U.S. to listen to research on health disparities in cancer, and to network. One afternoon was spent with government officials including Andrew Von Eschenbach, head of the National Cancer Institute. This sends the signal that our government is concerned about health disparities.
But of course, those differences continue and are vicious. Ann Fonfa asked about another underserved group - cancer survivors who lose their health insurance but are not eligible for either Medicare or disability. This is a growing number of Americans adding to the 44 million already without (adequate or any) insurance.
There were several pre-symposium workshops including:
Essentials for Culturally Competent Intervention which offered “to explore how our institutions and established processes affect the delivery of culturally competent cancer care in medical settings”
Speaking with One Voice – Being an Effective Advocate which looked at the effect a group of trained advocates can have when they meet with “local, state, and federal officials and speak with one voice.”
Quality of Life/End of Life Issues which included topics like patient/physician communication, legal concerns, and palliative care including pain management.
The Hispanic Cancer Experience: A Mosaic in Culture which was designed “to increase the culturally specific knowledge of nurses who are working with the increasing numbers of a heterogeneous Hispanic/Latino patient population.”
Linking Resources for Comprehensive Cancer Control (PLANET) which took place at the National Institutes of Health campus and explored the Web portal.
Cancer Clinical Trials: What do they Mean for People in My Community which was a three hour “training program on clinical trials, addressing why they are important, and how to work within ones own community to help reduce access barriers.”
Wednesday, March 24 featured a preview of the PBS program “A Lion in the House”, a film by Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert. Steve and Julia are the parents of a child who had cancer. The film offers vignettes of four other such children. This preview showed a bit about three of them.
Francis Collins, MD, PhD, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH spoke about his work. He stated that genomics can be used to find hereditary conditions, but it may also improve diagnosis, prevention and ‘cure’. He felt this might contribute to the eradication of cancer by its ability to determine individual responses to drugs and dosages.
He also pointed out that among humans, our genes are 99% identical at the DNA level with most variants original to our earliest common ancestors. (I remember reading that scientists postulate there were five of those). He also suggested heredity was not really like a tree because “things go back and forth, thus genetic boundaries are blurry and imprecise”.
Currently susceptibility genese are a “rather imperfect surrogate” for disease risk with dietary, cultural, environmental and socio-economic factors contributing.
For more information on the Genome Project, go to www.genome.gov
The next speaker was Dr. Harold P. Freeman, MD, Director, Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, MD (see below for his remarks)
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