Measuring and addressing health equity: an assessment of cancer center designation requirements

Cancer Causes Control. 2023 Mar 20. doi: 10.1007/s10552-023-01680-4. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: By requiring specific measures, cancer endorsements (e.g., accreditations, designations, certifications) promote high-quality cancer care. While 'quality' is the defining feature, less is known about how these endorsements consider equity. Given the inequities in access to high-quality cancer care, we assessed the extent to which equity structures, processes, and outcomes were required for cancer center endorsements.

Methods: We performed a content analysis of medical oncology, radiation oncology, surgical oncology, and research hospital endorsements from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), respectively. We analyzed requirements for equity-focused content and compared how each endorsing body included equity as a requirement along three axes: structures, processes, and outcomes.

Results: ASCO guidelines centered on processes assessing financial, health literacy, and psychosocial barriers to care. ASTRO guidelines related to language needs and processes to address financial barriers. CoC equity-related guidelines focused on processes addressing financial and psychosocial concerns of survivors, and hospital-identified barriers to care. NCI guidelines considered equity related to cancer disparities research, inclusion of diverse groups in outreach and clinical trials, and diversification of investigators. None of the guidelines explicitly required measures of equitable care delivery or outcomes beyond clinical trial enrollment.

Conclusion: Overall, equity requirements were limited. Leveraging the influence and infrastructure of cancer quality endorsements could enhance progress toward achieving cancer care equity. We recommend that endorsing organizations 1) require cancer centers to implement processes for measuring and tracking health equity outcomes and 2) engage diverse community stakeholders to develop strategies for addressing discrimination.

Keywords: Cancer centers; Diversity; Equity; Quality; Treatment.