Equity, Access, and Inclusion at Teal Health in Ethnic Equality Month and Beyond
- 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 race, insurance status, and geographic location.
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, White women have a five-year survival rate of 71 percent following a cervical cancer diagnosis. However, this rate plummets to 58 percent for black women, and it’s even lower for black women over 65 (clocking in at less than 40 percent). But why is that?
Unfortunately, many women, especially members of minority groups, are behind on their Pap smear 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). For clarity, the HDI measures a country’s different dimensions of human development by evaluating elements 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 incidence and mortality. For instance, researchers have discovered that even small improvements in the HDI, like an 0.2 uptick, can lead to a significant 33 percent fall in cervical cancer mortality
This shows that when women 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 women 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 been shown to negatively affect cervical cancer screening rates, cervical cancer burden, and disease attributes. So when companies like Teal Health can make testing more available, this may mean that 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, and other factors. Many members of the LGBTQ+ community experience implicit bias from healthcare providers, which can lead to health disparities. Medical professionals who don’t understand their issues or share their identity may misinform their patients. Reasons such as this are why Teal Health aims to offer a provider-free collection option. We recognize that few providers are available to properly assist this often vulnerable population.
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 the principal 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, they are more inclined to make better decisions.
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.