ASCO Details Top Policy Priorities to Address Social Determinants of Health and Improve Health Equity in Cancer Care

Policies include expanded services under Medicaid, improved data collection, and enhanced reimbursement
For immediate release
February 22, 2024


Elaiza Torralba

Alexandria, Va.—The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) released a policy statement highlighting the top policy changes necessary to advance health equity in cancer care.

The statement, published in this month’s edition of JCO Oncology Practice, examines how social determinants of health (SDOH) can impact a patient’s access to cancer care and outcomes. These factors include a person’s access to food, housing, transportation, their experience with discrimination, their educational attainment, and social supports or isolation, among several other issues. Collectively these factors may negatively contribute to someone’s risk of developing cancer, their ability to detect it, and their ability to obtain, afford, and successfully complete treatment.

“Ensuring everyone, regardless of their age, race, occupation, location, or economic situation has access to high quality cancer care requires public policies that recognize and mitigate negative social determinants of health,” said Reginald D. Tucker-Seeley, ScD, the policy statement’s lead author.

Among the policy recommendations included in the statement is the expanded use of state Medicaid waivers to cover health-related social needs (HRSN) such as housing, home modification, nutrition, and transportation services. States including Arkansas, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington all have approved waivers to cover these needs. More recently, New York and Pennsylvania requested similar waivers that aim to improve program administration, access to services and screenings, as well as other HRSN-related benefits.

“Delivering the best care possible to a person with cancer requires considering the totality of that person’s experience and situation. Being unable to secure transportation, or having unstable access to food or housing, absolutely impacts someone’s ability to get care. These waivers have the potential to disentangle some of the negative outcomes and inequities that result from unmet health-related social needs and reduce health disparities,” said Dr. Tucker-Seeley.

Other policies cited in the statement include tasking the National Cancer Institute with developing infrastructure to collect SDOH data and then developing interventions based on that data, having the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) improve and increase awareness of reimbursement codes for delivering SDOH-focused care, and supporting policies to support patient navigation.

“Standardized data collection is critical to addressing SDOH challenges and providing the necessary data to determine what policies work well over time. Increased resources for recruitment and retention of social workers, patient navigators and other support staff, will help expand programs we know work well already. And all the policies in this statement are essential to improving access to quality care for under-resourced communities and equitable cancer care for us all. We look forward to moving towards their implementation in the years ahead,” said Dr. Tucker-Seeley.

Read ASCO’s full policy statement.

About ASCO: 

Founded in 1964, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) is committed to the principle that knowledge conquers cancer. Together with the Association for Clinical Oncology, ASCO represents nearly 50,000 oncology professionals who care for people living with cancer. Through research, education, and promotion of high quality, equitable patient care, ASCO works to conquer cancer and create a world where cancer is prevented or cured, and every survivor is healthy. Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, supports ASCO by funding groundbreaking research and education across cancer’s full continuum. Learn more at, explore patient education resources at www.Cancer.Net, and follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.