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Health Equity Legislation Urgently Needed Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

The Henrietta Lacks Act and Broader Health Equity and Accountability Act Aim to Improve Access to Health Care, Including Clinical Trials, for Minorities

April 28, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today aims to improve access to quality health care for communities of color and decrease health disparities, such as those resulting in a disproportionate number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in these communities.

The Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) of 2020, puts forth a comprehensive set of strategic policy solutions designed to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities, increase data collection and reporting, diversify the healthcare workforce, as well as expand and improve health care services. It also includes the Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act, which aims to increase access to and improve cancer clinical trial participation among communities that are traditionally underrepresented in trials.

HEAA and the Henrietta Lacks Act are strongly supported by the Congressional TriCaucus which includes the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

A statement from Lisa Lacasse, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) follows:

“The longstanding disparities in health care among communities of color are being made devastatingly apparent during this pandemic. Communities of color are suffering at a disproportionate rate, attributed in part to long-standing inadequacies in their access to health care and resources to treat chronic conditions, like cancer. This legislation aims to address many of these gaps through a variety of measures, starting with prevention and extending across the entire continuum of care, including access to cancer clinical trials.

“The inclusion of the Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act—named after an African-American woman who died of cervical cancer and whose cells cultivated during her treatment have been used to develop some of the most important cancer treatments—would focus on identifying and removing barriers that prevent underrepresented groups from participating in cancer clinical trials. Communities of color and other medically underserved groups continue to have higher cancer rates and are less likely to be diagnosed early or receive optimal treatment compared to other groups. Clinical trials represent the best opportunity for all patients to access the most cutting-edge cancer treatments and need to be easy for patients to access, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geographic location, or age.

“We cannot achieve our mission of a world with less cancer until we reduce the burden of this disease across all communities. Now is the time for meaningful action and we look forward to working with Congress on advancing this critical legislation.”

 

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