As a melanoma advocate, I realized that people of color often are not included in research or properly understand their risks for skin cancer. Here’s what I’m doing to change that.
In the last few years, and over the rest of our lives, the concept of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is being integrated into every facet of life. This is especially true with the area of medical research. Every area, from data analysis to clinical studies to patient treatment is being affected. There has been a realization that major portions of the population have been left out in medical research. Often, the limitations in the parameters in clinical studies, though sometimes necessary, can limit viability of results when applied to those missed.
The same problem happens with advocacy. We become so entrenched in how we have been doing things that we limit our audience. Frequently, we mirror only those that look like ourselves and have the same or similar awareness standards.
If you are an advocate like me, we first identify the diverse population we are not reaching and then try to categorize those obstacles that impede equity. When it comes to the practical part of inclusion things can get hung up. This is where the rubber meets the road and the question of “how?” arises. When addressing this, it is often a new ventureand it is usually best to start small and allow for growth.
Here are steps that I found to be helpful.
First, make whatever we do personal, and have it applied to whatever advocacy work we are familiar with and build into that work a piece that will be relevant to the missing audience.
Second, keep whatever our first addition is simple. Perhaps flyers on awareness or information on resources that apply to the new audience. Include an explanation of why it affects them.
Third, make it practical. Something that is doable and sustainable. Keep in mind that we want to build on it next year.
Fourth, get help from the community. Failing to make connections outside the echo chambers we live in can be problematic. Watch the news for community leaders and contact them. When volunteering at an event we can network to make connections. Even if only one person is contacted this can build into a network quickly.
In my case, I work on melanoma awareness. The Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) community has been poorly communicated with about the risks and what to watch for. In this effort, we have been fighting upstream to eliminate a lot of false information that has been assumed by many. At my walk this year I am beginning with awareness flyers that target the BIPOC community specifically, as their risks and awareness system is different from those of Caucasians. I have been using social media and friends to attempt to get the word out about the event to those that might think the issue does not apply to them. Hopefully, I will be meeting a few people face to face at the event that will promote this new facet of the awareness campaign and can help it grow over the coming years.
Inclusion takes effort and it is up to all of us to reach out and make the change.
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