Opinion: ‘Beating cancer means beating it for everyone’

Cancer
Two women talking.

Cancer doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The factors that determine which groups in society face the greatest burden also have a role to play in who’s most likely to get cancer, and to die from it. These factors are complex, they are deeply woven into the fabric of our society – and they can’t be ignored.

We’ve long felt that Cancer Research UK has a role to play in tackling inequalities, and I have a long-held interest in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. But the events of the past year brought issues of inequality into sharp focus, and that in turn focused our minds. In June we published our initial commitments, which included a commitment to becoming an organisation committed to EDI, and that we would develop a short-, medium- and long-term plan for how to get there.

I’m proud to be launching that strategy today. This marks a significant step forward for us as a charity, for our community and for our collective fight against cancer.

Michelle Mitchell, chief executive officer of Cancer Research UK.

Michelle Mitchell is Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.

Cancer Research UK is the largest funder of cancer research in the world. So we have a responsibility to make sure our research community is inclusive, diverse and thriving.

38 million people each year access health information developed by Cancer Research UK. So we must ensure that it is easy to access and easy to understand, for everyone.

We are a voice for people affected by cancer in the media, and to Governments. We have a responsibility to highlight where there are inequalities, and use our voice and our partnerships to make sure they’re tackled.

We’re a large organisation, employing 3,500 people and supported by 30,000 volunteers. Every person at Cancer Research UK needs to be supported to do their best work, we need to have a breadth of skills and experiences and the best leaders who also represent the communities we serve.

This strategy sets out the actions we’re taking to meet these responsibilities. We want to create a charity where everyone feels like they belong, benefits from, and participates in the work we do.

This means becoming an anti-racist charity, challenging racism and discrimination whenever we encounter it in the scope of our work.

I’m proud of the progress we’ve already made over the past few years. We’ve doubled female membership on research committees, addressed a lack of diversity in clinical trials and published a report on socioeconomic inequalities in cancer.

But we’ve also made mistakes. We could’ve done more to tackle racial biases in academic research, had a stronger voice on health inequalities, and acted quicker to make sure that our communications materials reflected the diversity of our community.

By publishing this plan, I want to make a public commitment to change for the better. We will share our progress each year, be transparent where we haven’t got it right, and always be open to learning. Because while this is a great step forward for Cancer Research UK, it is not the final step –we have to fulfil these commitments, learn as we go and in parallel, look towards our longer-term ambitions for change. As chief executive, I am personally committed to this and will be leading this change.

Michelle Mitchell is the chief executive of Cancer Research UK

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