Addressing Social Risks in Cancer Care


Social risks are adverse conditions or contextual factors associated with poor health. They may increase an individual’s likelihood of having unmet social needs, such as food-, housing-, and transportation insecurity. Social risks and social needs can pose significant barriers to cancer care and contribute to poorer health-related outcomes, especially for cancer patients and survivors from historically underserved and marginalized backgrounds.

Healthcare organizations are increasingly implementing approaches to capture and address patient’s social risks and needs. However, there is limited evidence to guide the delivery of system-level efforts, especially in diverse cancer care delivery settings. Reducing disparities in cancer outcomes and advancing equitable cancer care delivery will require effective integration of social care and clinical care across the cancer care continuum, from prevention and screening through end-of-life care.

What is social risk research?

In cancer care delivery, social risk research focuses on understanding and addressing the structural and institutional contexts and processes that impact the delivery of quality cancer care and outcomes. Social risk research includes developing, implementing, and evaluating multilevel interventions that integrate social and cancer care, such as:

  • Identifying the presence of social risks or needs in patients and communities
  • Adjusting or informing care for cancer patients and survivors experiencing social risks and needs
  • Connecting cancer patients and/or caregivers with social care resources
  • Organizing and distributing new and existing social care resources within and outside cancer care delivery settings
  • Cultivating clinical-community partnerships to increase the availability and accessibility of social care resources for cancer patients and communities

Social risk research incorporates equity-conscious approaches that recognize the unique histories of patients, communities of color, and others who have been historically underserved and marginalized. This research engages communities as partners throughout the research process and applies intersectionality (e.g., overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage based on class, gender, and race) as a conceptual and methodological framework.

The NCI’s Healthcare Delivery Research Program supports research in this scientific area by developing and facilitating access to funding opportunities, training, and data resources.

Highlighted Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs)

Featured Funding Opportunities

  • Health care models for persons with multiple chronic conditions from populations that experience health disparities: Advancing health care towards health equity (PAR-22-092External Web Site Policy)
  • Patient-Clinician Relationship: Improving Health Outcomes Among Populations that Experience Health Disparities (R01 Clinical Trial Optional) (PAR-22-064External Web Site Policy)
  • Pilot Interventions to Integrate Social Care and Medical Care to Improve Health Equity (R01—Clinical Trial Required) (RFA-DK-22-038External Web Site Policy)

Notice(s) of Special Interest

  • Stimulating Research to Understand and Address Hunger, Food and Nutrition Insecurity (NOT-OD-22-135External Web Site Policy)
  • Improving Adherence to Treatment and Prevention Regimens and Maintenance of Health Behaviors to Promote Health (NOT-OD-24-146External Web Site Policy)

Additional Opportunities

Visit the DCCPS funding opportunity page to apply for other cancer control grantsExternal Web Site Policy.

Data Tools & Resources

Last Updated: 12 Jul, 2024