Just like the University of Illinois Cancer Center, our community partner Equal Hope has always been committed to eliminating racial disparities in cancer.
The nonprofit organization was founded in 2008 as the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force after published research illustrated how racial disparities in breast cancer deaths plagued the city. In the 15 years since, Equal Hope’s tireless work to save lives by eliminating health inequities has continued and expanded with the Cancer Center, the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) and UI Health by its side.
The organization now navigates women to breast and cervical cancer screenings and care; connects people to vaccination sites so they are protected against the flu, HPV, COVID-19 and shingles; provides robust community outreach and education; and, most recently, is working with the Cancer Center to create awareness and understanding of research clinical trials so diverse populations have knowledge of and equitable access to new cancer treatments.
Equal Hope, and its Executive Director Paris Thomas, PhD, are vital partners of the Cancer Center with deep involvement in and support for our intersecting efforts to erase cancer disparities.
“We want to be able to help move the needle on disparities and it takes a team collaborative effort so we want to approach it through a community lens, and you approach it through a systemwide lens and together we can make a bigger impact,” Thomas said.
About Equal Hope Partnership
The rich partnership with Equal Hope has spanned the cancer continuum:
- Legislation to ensure women with breast cancer have access to accredited facilities and quality care.
- Community navigation partnerships to create medical homes.
- Research evaluation and technical assistance in community navigation
- Partnering to enhance quality at safety-net hospitals.
Additionally, the Equal Hope partnership has touched all three Cancer Center research programs: Cancer Prevention and Control, Translational Oncology and now Cancer Biology as part of the Cancer Center’s Hope Leaders Fellowships.
Equal Hope was among the inaugural recipients of the fellowships, a Cancer Center program dedicated to building bidirectional relationships between scientists and community organizations. The fellowship program, which is run by the Cancer Center’s Office of Community Engagement and Health Equity, empowers community organization leaders to communicate the health needs of the communities they represent directly to Cancer Center researchers; return to their communities and disseminate information about cancer research discoveries and health resources; and build trust for the cancer research infrastructure in traditionally underserved communities.
As part of the Cancer Center’s efforts to lead in finding solutions to create more diverse cancer trials in Chicago and nationwide, Equal Hope is a partner in a series of free workshops – called the Structural Solutions for Diverse Cancer Trials (ASSETS) for Cook County series – that Cancer Center Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement Yamile Molina, PhD, is organizing with grant support from pharmaceutical companies.
Equal Hope’s Thomas was among the featured speakers at workshops. The first was in August at the 100 Black Men of Chicago Health and Wellness Expo and in October as a preconference event at MOLA’s Annual Latinx Health Symposium. MOLA (Medical Organization for Latino Advancement) is a non-profit association of Hispanic/Latino physicians and health professionals.
Equal Hope has worked to build its capacity to help diversify clinical trials by educating patient navigators, community health workers, patients and communities about clinical trials in ways that are more accessible to them.
The Cancer Center and Equal Hope also work together to navigate women to the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP), which provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings to uninsured and underinsured people in Illinois.
The Cancer Center thanks Equal Hope for their strong and continued partnership.