Addressing Unmet Social Needs and Developing Interventions Can Benefit Women of Color with Cancer

A study identified some common social needs and distress in a mostly Hispanic gynecologic oncology patient population, and the findings suggest that interventions are needed to mitigate health care disparities and affect treatment outcomes. The results were published in the journal Cancer.

In this prospective cohort study, researchers collated and assessed survey data of 135 women who were seen in the gynecologic oncology clinic at the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center from August 2018 and February 2019.  Most patients were Hispanic (over 60%), and foreign born (over 82%), and the median patient age was 54 years old. Also, the majority of patients listed Spanish as their preferred language (over 53%), and over  84.4% had very low household income. The most common diagnoses were ovarian (37.0%), cervical (26.7%), and uterine (22.2%) cancer.

According to the results of the survey, 65.2% had at least one unmet social need, and 36.3% screened positive for distress. The most reported need was more helpful hospital reading materials (30.4%). Social isolation (OR=3.65; 95% CI, 1.35-9.9; P=.01) and lack of safety at home (OR=4.90; 95% CI, 2.23-10.62; P=.0001) were both linked with distress. The results also that perceived lack of finances for medical care (OR=5.69; 95% CI, 1.12-28.9; P=.036) and lack of transportation (OR=20.5; 95% CI, 2.69-156.7; P = .004) were associated with nonadherence-related treatment interruption, whereas, the researchers noted, positive distress scores were associated with interruption because of comorbidities or treatment-related toxicities (OR=20.5; 95% CI, 1.5-268.6; P = .02).

“While it is not within the power of individual healthcare systems or providers to modify social determinants of health, these data offer hope that we can implement programs to reduce healthcare disparities by addressing unmet social needs,” said senior author Abdulrahman K. Sinno, MD, of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine via a press release about the study. “It’s important that we focus on addressing social needs regardless of the social, economic, and political inequities that precede them because these needs are ultimately downstream mediators of poor health outcomes.”


Dr. Sinno added that: “In the future, we plan to demonstrate the utility and cost effectiveness of identified social need intervention algorithms not only for improving quality of life and health outcomes, but also for reducing healthcare disparities.”