Real Talk Blog

Equity, Access, and Inclusion at Teal Health in Ethnic Equality Month and Beyond

Key Takeaways:

  • February celebrates Ethnic Equality Month, fostering awareness about inequities and encouraging people and companies to look at ways to redress this through social equality and justice initiatives.
  • Teal Health is committed to dismantling inequity and building equitable outcomes in women’s health.
  • Significant racial disparities exist in cervical cancer outcomes.
  • Many women lag behind in cervical cancer screening due to factors like racial and ethnic disparities, insurance status, and geographic location.
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Did you know that February marks Ethnic Equality Month? This month, which is celebrated in the United States and a host of other countries, is designed to boost awareness that there are commonalities that link us all together. Yet, when celebrating this commonality, we should remember to embrace and appreciate our differences.

Part of raising awareness is also bringing to light the disparities in socio-economic and health outcomes that still impact members of certain groups. For instance, the CDC notes that there is a dramatic gap in these outcomes across the United States, which can be attributed to both individual racism and structural and institutional racism.

The Teal Health team is focused on actively dismantling these unequal systems and boosting patient outcomes. This aligns with the United Nations’ focus on sustainable growth and development that offers social equality and justice to everyone.

What Inequality Looks Like When It Comes To Cervical Cancer

It’s understood that inequality impacts healthcare outcomes, but just how much of an effect does it really have? Below we’ll bring attention to the different ways inequality affects how and when women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and also suggest ways to close the current gap.

Disparities Among Racial Groups

Depending on the racial group you’re a part of, research shows a dramatic disparity in the five-year survival rate of patients with cervical cancer. For example, in 2023, White women had a five-year survival rate of 67 percent following a cervical cancer diagnosis. However, this rate plummets to 56 percent for Black women. But why is that?

Unfortunately, many women, especially members of minority groups, are behind on their cervical cancer screenings. Screenings can detect cancer before there are any symptoms, which can improve one’s chance of survival. However, if a diagnosis is delayed until one has symptoms, the cancer has probably advanced, and the option to cure the condition has decreased.

The Human Development Index

Another potential factor that may explain these radical outcome gaps is the differences in the Human Development Index (HDI). It tries to understand a country’s development by measuring things like life expectancy, years of schooling, and per capita income.

A population’s literacy rate, poverty rate, and per capita healthcare expenditure are all related to cervical cancer cases and deaths, as they are all tied into a person’s health awareness and ability to access screenings and care. Even small improvements in overall socioeconomic development (like a 0.2 uptick in the HDI) can lead to a significant 33 percent fall in deaths from cervical cancer.

This shows that when people have access to the proper resources and preventive health services they need, the gap in care outcomes can be reduced.

Major Barriers: Lack of Health Insurance and Geographic Location

Another common reason people delay or avoid testing is that they don’t have insurance or are underinsured. Even those with health insurance may not recognize what screenings are covered under their plan or are unable to pay for out-of-pocket expenses.  

Barriers that price people out of testing have negatively affect cervical cancer screening rates, death rates from the disease, and the overall public health burden around cervical cancer screening rates, cervical cancer burden, and disease attributes. So when companies like Teal Health can make testing more easily accessible, more women can be screened and effectively treated for the condition.

One’s location could also lead to access-to-care issues. For instance, living in a rural area could contribute to screening lags. These remote areas often lack the technology or the providers to screen everyone who needs testing. In addition, transportation is a major issue for several individuals. In fact, in 2017, it was discovered that 5.8 million people in the United States delayed medical care because they didn’t have transportation. Fortunately, telehealth solutions can help expand access to care for those in areas where healthcare services may be limited.    

Other Inequalities And The Power of Education

People who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community also tend to be more likely to be overdue on screening compared with their heterosexual peers, due to lack of support, fear of judgment, personal experiences of sexual trauma, and other factors. Many members of the LGBTQ+ community experience implicit bia from healthcare providers and may have negative experiences related to the clinic-based cervical cancer screening that uses a speculum. These barriers to engaging in screening, can lead to health disparities. Reasons such as this are why Teal Health aims to offer a self-collection option, which would enable vulnerable populations with barriers to the clinic-based exam to still engage in their routine cervical cancer screening.

In order to effectively address each of these inequalities, work must be done to educate patients, in a culturally sensitive manner, about the importance of screening. We’ve learned from research that a lack of information is a barrier to care for many patients. As one study revealed, “Education is a critical component of health and, we argue, education is a major, long-term, multifaceted cause of health.” When people become informed about best practices for cancer screening, they are more inclined to make better decisions for their health.

What Equity, Access, and Inclusion Means at Teal Health

Teal Health is strongly committed to tackling racism and inequities in the healthcare system. No one’s health should hinge on their racial group or other socio-economic factors.

We believe everyone deserves access to high-quality, judgment-free, and individually tailored healthcare, particularly regarding reproductive health. Our goal of equity, inclusivity, and access is exactly why we’re launching an FDA-approved at-home cervical cancer screening kit designed for those assigned female at birth. It’s our first step into making healthcare more accessible and equitable for patients across a wide range of demographic groups.

Jessica Thomas, MPH

Jessica is a public health professional, health & wellness writer, and entrepreneur. She enjoys learning about and educating others on healthy living and helping business owners achieve more while doing less.

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