Cancer is a disease that affects everyone, but not equally. Studies indicate that Black Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial/ethnic group in the United States for most cancers. For the next year, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Anthem Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Anthem, Inc., have committed to address the unequal burden of cancer by delivering cancer prevention and early detection information and resources in at-risk communities.

Backed by a $1 million grant, the collaboration will work to break down health disparities and increase health equity in the most vulnerable communities in an effort to increase awareness of breast and colon cancer screening. The programming is anticipated to reach up to 10,000 people.

“The risk factors for Black Americans impacted by breast and colon cancer is alarming and the work to improve early detection must include a focus on eliminating health barriers if we are going to challenge the status quo,” said Shantanu Agrawal, M.D., Chief Clinical Officer at Anthem, Inc.  “The Anthem Foundation’s collaboration with the American Cancer Society and their partnership with The Links, Incorporated and The Links Foundation, Incorporated is one more way we are working to foster an open dialogue in our at-risk communities and help to provide residents with access to tools and healthcare resources dedicated to early cancer screenings that will help further our goal to eliminate health disparities.”

To help initiate and promote the conversations and group informational sessions, The ACS has engaged The Links Foundation, Incorporated to train approximately 500 ACS/Links Health Ambassadors who will play a critical role in providing local resources to individuals and encourage them to seek care at community medical homes.

“We are honored by the grant from the Anthem Foundation and to have the opportunity to work with The Links. The Links are trusted messengers across the country with a commitment to community service and advancing public health,” said Tawana Thomas-Johnson, Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion for The American Cancer Society. “This partnership will help us continue the critical work of addressing cancer disparities and advancing health equity in at-risk communities.”

The importance to reach and influence members within the Black community comes at a critical time. Research done by ACS shows that Black men are 1.2 times more likely to have new cases of colon cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic White men, and death rates among Black women diagnosed with breast cancer are approximately 40% higher than White women.

“The statistics surrounding cancer and people of African descent are disheartening. We not only have the highest mortality rate, but when compared to other racial and ethnic groups, our survival of most cancers has the shortest window. Our organization exists to serve the community, and part of our service efforts are targeted at addressing cancer disparities and driving health equity in all communities touched by cancer. This grant from Anthem Foundation will allow The Links, Incorporated, through our philanthropic arm The Links Foundation, Incorporated, to continue transforming communities by helping to eradicate these inequities while also reducing cancer  screening disparities, particularly breast and colon, through community outreach and education.” said Kimberly Jeffries Leonard, Ph.D., national president of The Links, Incorporated and The Links Foundation, Incorporated.