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)
Data Tools & Resources
This data set includes, for each US census tract (defined using 2010 census tract boundaries), certain social determinants of health data elements defined using 2008-2012 American Community Survey data and 2010 definitions of rural urban commuting areas.
The SDOH assessments collection enables researchers to develop, disseminate, and use standard data collection measures.
The CRE for Equity dataset provides information about the nation, states, counties, and census tracts from the Community Resilience Estimates, the American Community Survey, and the Census Bureau’s Planning Database.
This table summarizes characteristics for each tool, including information about the intended population or setting, total number of questions, social health domains covered, and domain-specific measures used.
Publications & Reports
Integrating Social Needs Care into the Delivery of Health Care to Improve the Nation's Health
Improving social conditions remains critical to improving health outcomes, and integrating social care into health care delivery is more relevant than ever in the context of the pandemic and increased strains placed on the U.S. health care system. The report and its related products ultimately aim to help improve health and health equity, during COVID-19 and beyond.
NCI-Funded Social Risk Research in Cancer Care Delivery: Opportunities for Future Research
Cancer patients and survivors with food insecurity, housing instability, and transportation-related barriers face challenges in access and utilization of quality cancer care thereby adversely impacting their health outcomes. This portfolio analysis synthesized and described National Cancer Institute (NCI)-supported social risk research focused on assessing food insecurity, housing instability, and transportation-related barriers among individuals diagnosed with cancer.
Health Disparities and Health Equity
Learn more about the promotion and conduction of health equity research that identifies and addresses the mechanisms contributing to disparities across the cancer control continuum and throughout the human lifespan.