By Alicia Harris, Program Associate
BCA has three priority areas that guide our work: Putting Patients First, is our effort to ensure that the FDA drug and device approval process advances the needs of people over those of the pharmaceutical industry. Creating Healthy Environments, including our well-known Think Before You Pink campaign, is our work to reduce the involuntary environmental exposures that contribute to the breast cancer epidemic. Eliminating Social Inequities is our effort to create awareness of the social injustices, rather than genetics or personal decisions, that lead to inequities in breast cancer incidence and outcomes.
While the extent of BCA’s treatment and environmental work is known to most of our members and evident in our programs and communications, the eliminating social inequities priority is not as well known despite some efforts in this area in the past. In particular, our former Spanish language newsletter Saber Es Poder, spoke to issues in breast cancer affecting Latina communities. In addition, BCA staff conducted outreach and coalition work related to breast cancer outcomes in low-income communities of color. Economic turmoil, budget constraints and staff turnover, however, have significantly slowed the progress of this work and the connections we need to maintain it.
Eliminating social inequities is an important BCA priority and must become a part of all that we do. Maintaining this priority involves paying close attention to whose point of view, whose experiences, are at the center of the decisions we make regarding our work. What language do we use to develop these programs? With whom do we develop contacts to ensure these programs are effectively implemented? We need to build strategies and programs that will remain firmly in place despite fluctuations in staff and budget. Last year, a BCA graduate intern used staff discourse and her own experience as a newcomer to the organization to develop a presentation on supports in place for inequities work- and the impediments that have slowed it. Needs discussed in her presentation included: campaigns that specifically articulate how people are differently affected by the breast cancer epidemic in terms of race and class, programming and strategy that prioritizes the needs of the most impacted communities, and continued work in coalition with other organizations.
Before any efforts to fulfill these needs can be implemented, the organization must thoroughly examine its current position. Board and staff have begun working with activist anti-oppression consultants, Training for Change, who have helped us think about how we relate to each other and about who has access to our work. Their assistance will hopefully make us more effective in our strategies and get us one step closer to building important alliances so that we can truly address the social inequities that affect breast cancer incidences and outcomes.
As we continue having the conversations necessary to do this work effectively, we’ll need the perspectives of the people who know us (members and partner organizations), and, crucially, those who don’t know us yet. Please let us know your thoughts on how we can build on BCA’s work over the past 20 years. Help us to continue our work as an effective, responsive organization so that together we can end the breast cancer epidemic.