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February is Black History Month: ACS honors Black team members, volunteers, and history makers

​Celebrate Black History Month all month.

Feb. 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month. The origins of Black History Month date back to 1926 when noted historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson initiated the first celebration of Negro History Week, which corresponded with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. This celebration became Black History Month in 1976 when it was expanded to include the entire month of February and decreed as a national observance by President Gerald Ford.

In celebration of Black History Month, everyone at the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is invited to celebrate African American and Black culture as well as the contributions of team members, volunteers, and history makers in the cancer field, and illuminate cancer disparities in the Black community. “Black Resistance through Resilience and the Fight for Equity” is this year’s theme at ACS. The observance will examine how African Americans have fought for racial equity and highlight African American leaders, both past and present.  

Tawana Thomas-Johnson, senior vice president and chief diversity officer, encourages all ACS and ACS CAN team members to get involved. “The leadership and contributions of African Americans have played a fundamental role in shaping all aspects of our country and our world,” explains Thomas-Johnson. “It’s important for us to come together to learn, celebrate, and share the impact that has been made, is being made, and will be made by African American trailblazers.” 

What you can do

  • Team members and volunteers can help amplify key Black History Month messaging by following and sharing content from ACS brand channels

Advancing Health Equity

Cancer impacts everyone, but it doesn’t impact everyone equally. African Americans are disproportionately burdened by cancer and experience greater obstacles to cancer prevention, screening, treatment, and survival because of systemic factors that are complex and go beyond the obvious connection to cancer. Black History Month is an ideal time to reaffirm our organization believes that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer, and to share how we are working to ensure this. ACS and ACS CAN contribute to the fight against health inequities in the Black community in several ways, including:

Through advocacy:

    • We advocate for high-quality, affordable health care for everyone, including closing the Medicaid coverage gap, through ACS CAN.
    • ACS CAN works to remove barriers to clinical trial enrollment and improve diversity in them.
    • ACS CAN is supporting ACS’ IMPACT initiative to address disparities in prostate cancer incidence and mortality by advocating for state and federal policies that remove barriers to prostate cancer screening and treatment.
    • ACS CAN is urging the Food and Drug Administration to prohibit menthol, including in cigarettes, as part of a total flavor prohibition in all tobacco products and remains committed to continuing its work with state and local lawmakers to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products. This will help reduce youth tobacco initiation and Big Tobacco’s deceptive marketing practices toward Black people, who consistently report the highest prevalence of menthol cigarette use.
    • ACS CAN’s Black Volunteer Caucus plays a critical role in advancing public policy work, advising the organization on areas such as volunteer recruitment, outreach, training, and communications.

Through research:

    • ACS will launch the ACS Center for Diversity in Cancer Research Training externally in 2023. It will focus on capacity building for health equity and diversity, equity, and inclusion in cancer research, training high school, post-baccalaureate, and pre-doctoral students.
    • January’s release of Cancer Facts & Figures 2023, along with Cancer Statistics, 2023, spotlight an increase in diagnosis of men with advanced prostate cancer, with the highest incidence, and in prostate cancer mortality in Black men.
    • Every three years, ACS publishes Cancer Facts & Figures for African American/Black People and its accompanying scientific paper in the ACS peer-reviewed journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
    • We have invested $16 million in grants to Historically Black Colleges and Universities to impact future workforce diversity.
    • ACS launched IMPACT: Improving Mortality from Prostate Cancer Together. This new initiative will be a three-fold strategy designed to reverse prostate cancer disparities and reduce death rates from prostate cancer in all demographics and disparities for Black men by 2035. It will span advocacy, discovery, and patient support.

Through patient support:

  • Last year more than 2,100 health equity ambassadors reached more than 485,000 people in Black communities with cancer prevention and early detection health education. This work is through our nationwide partnership with The Links, Inc., focusing on public health advocacy with ACS CAN, Community Health Initiatives, and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.
  • We reduce barriers to quality care by providing free rides to treatment and free nights of lodging when treatment is far from home.
  • We fund health equity grants and screening programs to help reduce disparities in cancer care among communities of color. ACS’s Community Health Advocates Implementing Nationwide Grants for Empowerment and Equity (CHANGE) program has contributed to more than 1.3 million low to no-cost breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screenings since 2011.
  • The Partnering For Life initiative works to spread awareness about cancer risk, prevention, and early detection in the Black community.
  • Through a powerful collaboration, supported by Bank of America, ACS is working with other organizations to change the health trajectory of communities of color and advance healthy outcomes. The $25 million, four-year initiative will be uniquely tailored to address the leading causes of death in communities of color - heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.

What you should know

Black History Month is an ideal time to learn more about cancer disparities in the Black community such as:

  • Black people have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the US for most cancers. (source)
  • Black women are 41% more likely to die from breast cancer than White women, despite lower incidence of the disease. (source and source)
  • Black men are 73% more likely than White men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than twice as likely to die from the disease. (source)

ACS team members and volunteers can also visit Cancer Facts and Figures for African American/Black People to learn how ACS is addressing cancer disparities among African American and Black people.

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