Fifteen years ago, I heard the words no one wants to hear—I had breast cancer. Even so, I was lucky in that I had comprehensive health insurance, access to some of the best doctors, and could afford out-of-pocket costs. At Susan G. Komen, we know that not everyone is as fortunate.

While there has been tremendous progress in treating breast cancer, there is no denying that this progress has not benefited everyone equally. In the United States, Black women are about 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. In some communities, the disparity is even greater. In Memphis, Black women are 70 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than their white counterparts, and in Washington, D.C., the gap is over 50 percent. Part of this disparity can be ascribed to genetics. Black women are often diagnosed at a younger age and suffer more aggressive breast cancers. However, much of this difference is due to more complex issues of systemic racism and bias that result in Black women being diagnosed at later stages of disease, when treatments are limited and costly, and the prognosis poor.

Too often, the conversation about saving lives from breast cancer begins and ends with access to screening. Yet in many communities, Black women are more likely to be screened than white women and are still more likely to die from the disease. This is because—while access to screening is important—access to quality care and to a full continuum of care is more important. And the tragic fact is that Black women are more likely to face barriers to care and to receive care that is below the quality standard.

To achieve greater health equity, consider these key interventions:

  • Invest in Research. 
  • Advocate for Change. 
  • Take a Comprehensive Approach. 
  • Support People with Patient Navigators. 
  • Spread and Scale Effective Models. 

Read the full article about health equity by Paula Schneider at Grantmakers In Health.