Background: Profound advances in biomedical science have contributed to increased longevity and improved quality of life for many Americans. Despite this progress, a heavier burden of disease is borne by some population groups in the United States, particularly the poor and underserved. Landmark reports published since 1973 have highlighted these health disparities, explored their causal factors, and outlined strategies to reduce them. More recent research studies underscore the results of these early reports that identify social position, economic status, culture, and environment as critical determinants of who develops and survives cancer and of the quality of life of cancer survivors.
Methods: The Patient Navigation Program was established in Harlem, New York, in 1990 to address the dramatic disparities in breast cancer mortality among minority women in the community.
Results and conclusions: The success of the Harlem Patient Navigation Program has provided the impetus for the development of many similar patient navigation programs across the country and for federal support for Patient Navigation research to address the critical need for effective interventions to eliminate cancer health disparities, particularly among minorities and the underserved.