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Addressing Social Determinants of Health in Leukemia and Lymphoma Care: A Critical Call to Action

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Ayanna Amadi
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Addressing Social Determinants of Health in Leukemia and Lymphoma Care: A Critical Call to Action

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The American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting and Exposition recently highlighted an issue of critical importance - the impact of social determinants of health on the treatment and outcomes of leukemia and lymphoma patients, particularly among children and young adults. This call to action emphasizes the urgent need for research and proactive measures to address the systemic inequities driving these disparities.

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Disparities in Access and Outcome

Recent studies have shown alarming disparities in the incidence and mortality rates of hematological malignancies among different racial and ethnic groups. Black and Hispanic patients with certain types of leukemia and lymphoma are more likely to present with advanced stage disease or die from relapse compared to their white counterparts. This disparity is not solely due to biological factors, but also non-biological factors such as access to healthcare, novel therapies, clinical trial enrollment, and health insurance coverage.

Social Determinants of Health: An Under-Researched Area

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Despite the mounting evidence, the impact of social determinants of health on outcome disparities in hematological malignancies remains an under-researched field. Socioeconomic, cultural, and political factors significantly influence the health outcomes of these patients. Yet, these non-biological factors often go unaddressed in the management of blood disorders, leading to a critical gap in care and outcomes.

Addressing the Disparities

Addressing these disparities requires a multifaceted approach. At the forefront of this effort is the call to simplify and democratize access to clinical trials. Often, potential participants are excluded due to complex criteria or logistical barriers. Simplifying the process can help ensure a more diverse and representative participant pool, leading to more inclusive and effective therapies. In addition, there is a pressing need to expand access to novel treatments and integrate social needs assessments into everyday clinical practices.

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Urgent Need for Research

Alongside these immediate actions, there is an urgent call for research studies to understand the socio-contextual factors driving these disparities. For instance, a population-based analysis conducted by a French West Indies cancer registry highlighted significant differences in the incidence and mortality trends of hematological malignancies compared to mainland France. These disparities underline the influence of sociocultural factors on health outcomes.

Conclusion

The ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition's emphasis on the social determinants of health in the management of leukemia and lymphoma underscores the need to view patient care holistically. It is not enough to focus solely on the biology of the disease. To truly improve care and outcomes for all patients, systemic inequities and social needs must be addressed with as much urgency and importance as the disease itself. This call to action serves as a potent reminder of the critical role of social determinants in health and the pressing need for research and action in this area.

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