Social Needs Linked to Poor Health-Related Quality in African American Cancer Survivors

By Rob Dillard - Last Updated: January 3, 2023

Social deficiencies such as lack of food and economic insecurity, poor housing and neighborhood conditions, and lack access to transportation are all linked with lower health-related quality of life (HRQOL) among African American cancer survivors, according to a study published online in CANCER.

In this study, researchers assessed 1,754 participants in the Detroit Research on Cancer Survivors (ROCS) cohort, a population-based study of African American survivors of breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer. They evaluated social needs related to food insecurity, utility shut-offs, housing instability, not getting health care due to cost or lack of transportation, and negative perceptions of neighborhood safety, and measured HRQOL was measured using a questionnaire.

According to the results, 36.3% of Black cancer survivors reported social needs, including over 17% who reported two or more. The researchers noted that prevalence of social needs ranged from 8.9% for utility shut-offs to 14.8% for food insecurity. The results showed that social needs that were linked with a low HRQOL included not getting care due to lack of transportation, housing instability, food insecurity, feeling unsafe in the neighborhood, utility shut-offs, and not getting care due to cost.


“My hope is that these findings raise awareness among cancer care providers and cancer researchers that many patients face substantial social and financial difficulties and that these have real impacts on patients’ health-related quality of life on top of cancer and cancer treatment,” said Lead author Theresa Hastert, PhD, of the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit via a press release.

“Cancer care and survivorship settings may represent an opportunity to screen for social needs, to connect patients and survivors with programs and services to address those needs, and to implement innovative interventions to reduce health disparities by addressing social needs among Black cancer survivors. These findings also highlight the need for and importance of having a social safety net in advancing population health and health equity.”


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