Improving access to health care

A spirited discussion on cancer pain relief, breast cancer, unraveling confusion and exposing health care disparities were among the topics of a two-dayconference in Manhattan on health disparities in minority and medical underserved communities.

The conference entitled: “Connecting Communities: Reaching Those In Need” on Dec. 10 and 11 was sponsored by the Intercultural Cancer Council (ICC) and focused on issues related to those individuals and communities who suffer from cancer health disparities.

“We have a tremendous challenge to increase information about and general awareness of cancer and other health disparity issues and how they are affected by local and national factors,” said Jay Silver, executive director of ICC said.

Other symposium workshops include LGBT Access to Health Care; Male Issues, Men, the Hidden Medically Underserved Minority; and Innovative Programs to Increase Cancer Screening.

Health Disparities in breast cancer was one of the topics of critical importance to the more than 150 participants attending the symposium.

Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, co-author of the new legislation that requires hospitals to provide specific information about the availability and access to breast reconstructive surgery to all patients before they undergo mastectomy surgery, lymph node dissection or a lumpectomy following a diagnosis of breast cancer. The new law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2011.

The existing federal and state law mandates insurance coverage for reconstructive surgery but does not ensure that women have the necessary information about reconstructive surgery options.

State Senator Hassell-Thompson, Carolyn C. Messner of Cancer Care Inc., and Lloyd C. Bishop, vice president of government affairs and community health initiatives for the Greater New York Hospital Association led a spirited workshop on Understanding the New World of Health Care Legislation.

State Senator Hassell-Thompson said: “Our intent is that this legislation will help cancer survivors as they move forward with their lives. While insurance must cover reconstructive surgery for breast cancer patients there is no standard practice for survivors to receive information about what reconstructive options are available to them. All breast cancer survivors now will be armed with the proper information so they can better decide what is best for them whether it is reconstructive surgery or a full range of other options.”

The conference held at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Rockefeller Research Laboratories, 430 East 67th Street, was sponsored by the Intercultural Cancer Council (ICC) which promotes programs to eliminate the unequal burden of cancer among racial and ethnic minorities and medically underserved populations in the U.S., and its associated territories. The ICC is the largest organization in the U.S. solely devoted to cancer health disparities.

“We are pleased at the reception the symposia presentations have experienced as we continue our presentations around the country. The heightened awareness to disparities in all health matters can best be addressed by informing the community of resources available to assist with their health care” said COL. (Ret.) Jim Williams, chair of the ICC.

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