Nearly a year-and-a-half after SurvivorNet launched its “Close the Gap” initiative designed to address inequities in cancer care, the media company and its partner NYU Langone Health are set to host a virtual event on June 17. The event will address the enduring race- and wealth-related disparities in treatment.
The oft-quoted statistics remain a great indictment of the American healthcare system. Black men with prostate cancer are twice as likely to die as white men, while a Black woman with breast cancer is 39% more likely to die than a white woman. Meanwhile, some 80% of individuals with cancer aren’t treated at a marquee cancer center, which means they often miss out on the best care and/or access to the most recent treatments. Such access limitations disproportionately affect BIPOC patients.
“We’ve been spending so much time and money trying to close the gap in information about cancer,” said SurvivorNet CEO and co-founder Steve Alperin. “I don’t know how you can do that without talking about the very real problem of disparities.”
With the event and the broader “Close the Gap” initiative, SurvivorNet is employing different tactics aimed at solving awareness and information issues around cancer care. Rather than the typical lumbering, PSA-heavy approach, the company has created more than 1,000 short films featuring patients, caregivers and their stories.
To that end, the event’s featured speakers include Dr. Joseph Ravenell, the leading authority in community-based approaches toward expanding healthcare access for Black people, and Mathew Knowles, a breast cancer survivor and music executive (and father of Beyoncé and Solange). In keeping with the inspirational appeal, it will feature a musical performance by Macy Gray.
“We want to uplift people,” Alperin says. “That’s one of the prime ways to reach people, and it works in a different way than academic journals and debates about access.”
That tonal shift is likely to resonate, especially after a year of clinical-minded presentations. “Lots of people are virtual-conferenced-out,” Alperin noted. And the uplifting tonality and focus on trust will likely endure as SurvivorNet pushes back toward the old normal of in-person events.
“It’s sometimes hard to find the right advocates and the right voices for things like this,” he continued. “I could have a three-week-long conference with academics – and by the way, we love our academics, who are the lifeblood of our information resources. But it takes a sustained commitment to get beyond academia. You need to spend time and money to seek out the right voices.”