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Case Study

How Northwestern Medicine Is Reducing Cancer Disparities

15 Minute Read


    The challenge

    Populations in neighboring U.S. ZIP codes may have drastic differences in cancer incidence and mortality. These disparities are influenced by social determinants of health (SDOH), which include security in food, housing, income, environment, and social context. Up to 50% of a patient’s health can be attributed to these non-clinical factors, according to County Health Rankings & Roadmap.

    The organization

    The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center is an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. The Lurie Cancer Center’s primary teaching affiliate and clinical home, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, is an 894-bed academic medical center in downtown Chicago. Lurie Cancer Center’s community outreach and engagement initiatives are led by their Office of Equity and Minority Health, which partners with community-based organizations to meet the needs of medically underserved groups.

    The approach

    The Lurie Cancer Center started the Chicago Cancer Initiative (CCI) at the end of 2019 to reduce cancer rates and improve health outcomes in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. The center targeted this neighborhood after discovering it had higher cancer incidence and mortality rates than the city average, especially compared to more affluent Chicago neighborhoods. The CCI brings together stakeholders from government, academia, foundations, industry, and community organizations to address the Bronzeville community’s needs and expand access to cancer education, screening, treatment, and support.

    The result

    The CCI has built a relationship with the Bronzeville community and engaged partners to address residents’ needs during the Covid-19 crisis. The CCI is now using data to prepare interventions aimed at influencing long-term health outcomes in the neighborhood.

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    Pg. 3: “Social determinants of health,” World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/social-determinants-of-health; “County Health Rankings Model,” County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, 2014


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