Racial gaps in cancer deaths are just one example of the impact of ongoing oppression and exploitation in the medical field Black people face. To combat that gap and bridge communities to crucial healthcare, Delaware has been implementing patient navigators with promising results.
According to a report by NPR, Delaware has significantly closed racial gaps in cancer deaths, eliminating those gaps in some forms of cancer, with the help of patient navigators –– healthcare professionals that serve as advocates for people by scheduling overdue screening exams, sending reminders, coordinating transportation, and even attending appointments as translators.
"I am basically the connection between that individual and receiving that care," Sussex County patient navigator Margarette Osias told the outlet. Osias works for the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition and helps get patients into critical screenings among other life-saving duties.
Nearly 20 years ago, Delaware had the one of the highest cancer death rates in the country. Using the funds from a 1998 settlement with a tobacco company, the state established universal cancer screenings and treatments. The Screening for Life program pays for all cancer screens and cover the cost of two years of treatment if cancer is found –– even for residents who are undocumented, don't have insurance, or earn up to 6.5 times the federal poverty rate.
Now, the state is taking the same approach to addressing racial inequality in healthcare. Patient navigators go out into the zip codes with the lowest rates of screenings to promote the program at grocery stores, laundromats, churches and more.
According to NPR, the federal government is planning to invest in patient navigators as it begins to tackle the cancer death rates and racial inequality in healthcare across the country.