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The unequal burden of cancer affects individuals and populations throughout the cancer continuum. Health equity means that everyone has a fair opportunity to live a long and healthy life and includes the opportunity for everyone to attain their full health potential. Health equity requires addressing social determinants of health—broader social and economic conditions under which people live which determine their health, such as income—and eliminating health disparities.
Inequity refers to differences that are unnecessary and avoidable and are considered unfair and unjust. Addressing social determinants that contribute to health inequity is an issue of social justice. It requires addressing interpersonal, institutional, societal, and internalized forms of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, as well as other forms of bias and discrimination. It means striving toward a Commonwealth where all individuals and families have a high quality of health services, education, housing, and other resources that protect, promote, and preserve their health, regardless of who they are or where they live.
Health disparities are differences in the incidence, prevalence, burden and mortality of cancer that exist among population groups based on factors including, but not limited to, age, class, culture, education, ethnicity, geographic location, gender identity or expression, income, language, national origin, physical or mental disability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, wealth or other social conditions.
We find that racism has an independent influence on all the social determinants of health and that racism in and of itself has a detrimental impact on health. We affirm that racism and other factors are present in individuals and populations simultaneously and often interact in a synergistic manner.
“Each of us, individually, has the power to make a difference in eliminating the unequal burden of cancer. It will require the strength of all of us, collectively, to achieve this goal.” (The Massachusetts Comprehensive Cancer Advisory Committee, February 2011)
For the Goals, Objectives and Strategies of the Disparities & Health Equity section please see pages 30-34 of the 2012 – 2016 Comprehensive Cancer Prevention and Control Plan for Massachusetts (DOC)