COVID-19 and Health Center Colorectal Cancer Screening Rates


Map showing screening rates by HHS region

A recent White House press release describes President Biden’s efforts to reignite Cancer Moonshot, a campaign he launched in 2016 as Vice President. This program invested almost $2 billion in cancer research with a goal to reduce cancer death rates by more than 50% over 25 years. The reignition of Cancer Moonshot is partly in response to pandemic-related decreases in cancer screening and is a call-to-action to increase access to cancer screening and earlier cancer diagnoses while decreasing inequities in cancer screening and treatment.

The Health Center Program, which serves the nation’s most vulnerable populations, provides colorectal cancer screening to more than two million patients annually. Our recent research shows that 300,000 fewer health center patients were screened for colorectal cancer in 2020 compared to 2019, with statistically significant decreases in every region of the U.S. We specifically looked at rates by Department of Health and Human Services Region (HHS Region) and found the southern U.S. saw the lowest rates of colorectal cancer screening in 2020 and significant declines from 2019. Overall, the northeast and southwest experienced the largest declines in colorectal cancer screening.

Future research ideas include examining characteristics of health centers with the largest decreases in screening and examining other pandemic-related declines in clinical quality measures. To see the data by HHS Region, visit our Health Center Research page.

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