ACR Bulletin

Covering topics relevant to the practice of radiology

Reducing Disparities in Screening

Three key initiatives the ACR is supporting are helping move the needle
when it comes to health equity.

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Photo of Jaqueline A. Bello, MD, FACR – Chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors
 Jacqueline A. Bello, MD, FACR 
 Chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors
October 02, 2023

Every October, the ACR Bulletin publishes a special section on screening. The College has been working hard to advance a host of initiatives around prevention, detection and access to lifesaving screening services. Disparities in screening continue to be top of mind for many ACR members because we know that providing equitable access to basic screening is vital to high-quality patient care. 

That’s why I’m highlighting three initiatives that have been making an impact in reducing disparities through education and increased access to imaging.

Initiative 1: Neiman HPI Cancer Equity Atlas
Before taking action, we need to know where disparities are occurring and how to properly address them. The Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute® (HPI) is developing an online, public tool called the Cancer Equity Atlas to help identify U.S. communities in need. This atlas uses national and local data to geographically pinpoint disparities across cancer types and correlate these with the community-level factors, such as social determinants of health, that may represent root causes and point policymakers and community leaders toward effective solutions.  

The HPI is taking a highly collaborative approach to ensure the Atlas has the greatest opportunity for impact. It has assembled an advisory board of renowned experts in health equity and cancer research to help direct the work. It is also working with the Radiology Health Equity Coalition (RHEC), and Team Lead Carla Brathwaite is coordinating a community outreach initiative to understand the needs of communities and stakeholders so that the Atlas provides useful data to those positioned to be changemakers.

The HPI hopes that by leveraging its huge national claims data sources in combination with community and socioeconomic data, it can aid in identifying high-opportunity targets for improving health equity, developing effective policies and programs, expanding diversity in clinical trials, and ultimately measuring progress. The maps will be an interactive resource, updated over time, that can catalyze a wide array of solutions by providing the data to design effective strategies and provide the needed support to gain funding.

The ACR is proud of this initiative and is excited to see how it can benefit underserved populations. You can learn more about the HPI Cancer Equity Atlas here .

Initiative 2: RHEC Health Equity Symposium
Educating researchers on disparities in health equity is an important part of solving the problem. The RHEC, which the ACR supports as a member organization, has taken this challenge by the horns and developed an excellent three-part virtual series, the Radiology Health Equity Symposium: Advancing Clinical Research Diversity and Representation. The symposium emphasizes the significance of diversity in clinical radiology research by sharing insights, experiences and strategies around leveling the playing field.

The first session, which took place on Sept. 13, covered the importance of diversity in clinical trials and research and was titled “Why is Diversity in Clinical Trials and Research Important?” If you missed that session, don’t worry, you still have time to sign up for parts two and three. Part two, “Ensuring Diversity in Clinical Trials and Research Equity,” will take place Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 4 p.m. ET. Part three, “Community and Other Stakeholder Partnerships and Research Equity,” will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, at 4 p.m. ET. Register today !

Initiative 3: National LCS Day 
The ACR has partnered with the American Cancer Society’s National Lung Cancer Roundtable (NLCRT) and the RHEC for the second annual National Lung Cancer Screening Day, which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. Why is this being held on a Saturday? Simple! We want to make sure everyone who has been referred for low-dose lung cancer screening has a chance to access screening without taking off a day of work, hopefully increasing the number of participants on National Lung Cancer Screening Day.

Lung cancer continues to have the highest mortality rate for worldwide cancers , especially in populations from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Despite this, and advances in screening modalities and techniques, there is still a persistent barrier in screening regarding a patient’s availability for appointments.

Workers who make less than $15 an hour commonly have an issue getting proper access to paid leave  or FMLA protections. These workers are more likely to face financial and job security consequences if leave is taken, yet most screening centers still maintain traditional Monday through Friday operating hours. We hope National Lung Cancer Screening Day continues to spark changes and make screening more available to everyone who needs it. 

It is critical for our members to make sure everyone has access to screening and the best possible patient care. These initiatives really hammer that point home and continue to inspire us to help patients take charge of their health. I hope as you are reading this that you take time to look into these initiatives and participate in any way possible. Together, we can continue to reduce disparities in screening and make a difference in the world. 

Author Jacqueline A. Bello, MD, FACR,  chair of the ACR BOC