Anniversary of the First National Minority Cancer Awareness Week
On April 8, 1987, the U. S. House of Representatives Joint Resolution 119 designated the third week in April as "National Minority Cancer Awareness Week." It has now been 23 years since I approached Senator Lloyd Bentsen and Representative Mervyn Dymally to support a joint resolution to designate the third full week in April as National Minority Cancer Awareness Week. As explained in the Congressional Record, the resolution drew attention to "an unfortunate, but extremely important fact about cancer."
While cancer affects men and women of every age, race, ethnic background and economic class, the disease still has a disproportionately severe impact on minorities and underserved populations in this nation. National Minority Cancer Awareness Week was passed to bring attention to this fact and promote increased awareness of prevention and treatment to those segments of the populations that are at greater risk of developing cancer. The week's emphasis gives physicians, nurses, health care professionals and researchers an opportunity to focus on high-risk populations and to develop creative approaches to battling cancer problems unique to these communities. The American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society both endorsed the resolution as a means of drawing attention to the problem among minorities and the poor.
Twenty-three years later, the need for emphasis on cancer disparities and other health disparities is even greater. In fact, the editorial in the March 2008 edition of the Journal of American Medical Association stated that over the last two decades we have no real progress in addressing the health disparities gap. This is a serious problem. We need to address health disparities on a constant basis. As was noted in the Congressional Record in 1987, it is an opportunity for physicians, nurses, health care professionals and researchers as well as community leaders to focus on high-risk populations and to develop creative approaches to battling cancer problems unique to their communities.
The 1st Biennial Symposium on Minorities & Cancer launched National Minority Cancer Awareness Week in 1987. In Houston, the 1st congressionally mandated center outside of the federal government, the Center for Research on Minority Health will again host National Minority Cancer Awareness Week Luncheon to honor those researchers and/or community leaders who have done an outstanding job in addresses the needs of the underserved. In addition to the luncheon this year, and in conjunction with Leslie Smith of Change Happens and Francis Page, Jr., Publisher and Editor of Houston Style Magazine, the CRMH is participating in health awareness Saturday. This rounds out National Minority Cancer Awareness Week and National Minority Health Month. The Mayor of Houston announced the City of Houston will be joining these two events to re-energize our efforts to addressing health disparities.
Between now and November 19, 2010, in celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Congressional Legislation establishing the Center for Research on Minority Health, I would encourage you to hold something in your community that brings all who have an interested in eliminating health disparities together. Let us reinvigorate the movement to make health disparities history.
Lovell A. Jones, Ph.D.
Founder, Biennial Symposium Series on Minorities, the Medically Underserved & Cancer Cofounder, Intercultural Cancer Council Professor of Health Disparities Research Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Director, Center for Research on Minority Health Center of Excellence in Partnerships for Community Outreach and Research on Disparities in Health and Training (EXPORT) Health Disparities Education, Awareness, Research & Training (HDEART) Consortium Director, Reproductive Biology Graduate Education Program University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center 2450 Holcombe Blvd. Box 639 Houston, Texas 77021