Spatially exploring the intersection of socioeconomic status and Canadian cancer-related medical crowdfunding campaigns

BMJ Open. 2019 Jun 20;9(6):e026365. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-026365.


Objectives: Medical crowdfunding is a rapidly growing practice where individuals leverage social networks to raise money for health-related needs. This practice has allowed many to access healthcare and avoid medical debt but has also raised a number of ethical concerns. A dominant criticism of this practice is that it is likely to increase inequities in access to healthcare if persons from relatively wealthy backgrounds, media connections, tech-savvy and educational attainments are best positioned to use and succeed with crowdfunding. However, limited data has been published to support this claim. Our objective in this paper is to assess this concern using socioeconomic data and information from crowdfunding campaigns.

Setting: To assess this concern, we present an exploratory spatial analysis of a new dataset of crowdfunding campaigns for cancer-related care by Canadian residents.

Participants: Four datasets were used: (1) a medical crowdfunding dataset that included cancer-related campaigns posted by Canadians, (2) 2016 Census Profile for aggregate dissemination areas, (3) aggregate dissemination area boundaries and (4) forward sortation area boundaries.

Results: Our exploratory spatial analysis demonstrates that use of crowdfunding for cancer-related needs in Canada corresponds with high income, home ownership and high educational attainment. Campaigns were also commonly located near city centres.

Conclusions: These findings support concerns that those in positions of relative socioeconomic privilege disproportionately use crowdfunding to address health-related needs. This study was not able to determine whether other socioeconomic dimensions such as race, gender, ethnicity, nationality and linguistic fluency are also correlated with use of medical crowdfunding. Thus, we call for further research to explore the relationship between socioeconomic variables and medical crowdfunding campaigning to explore these other socioeconomic variables and campaigns for needs unrelated to cancer.

Keywords: cancer; crowdfunding; equity; spatial analysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Crowdsourcing / economics
  • Crowdsourcing / methods*
  • Fund Raising / methods*
  • Health Promotion
  • Healthcare Financing
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / economics
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Social Class*
  • Spatial Analysis

Grant support