Collaboration is imperative for comprehensive cancer control programs and the development and update of state comprehensive cancer control plans. Engagement of state cancer coalitions and connections with partners throughout the state is vital for collective action efforts to reduce the state’s cancer burden, regardless of geography.  The importance of engaging partners in comprehensive cancer control planning processes and the development of rural relevant goals, objectives, and strategies for these plans were emphasized in a recent developed by the Advancing Cancer and Rural Equity (ACRE) lab in conjunction with the Geographic Health Equity Alliance. This webinar included a panel of cancer coalitions and comprehensive cancer control program evaluators who shared how they engaged rural partners throughout their respective states through coalition workgroups, surveys, focus groups, and other efforts.  

As shared in the webinar, the Iowa Cancer Consortium engaged rural partners through their rural cancer workgroup. Engagement of rural partners is key. Two of the components of the CDC’s Self-Assessment Tool include stakeholder involvement and reduction of cancer disparities. Engaging stakeholders to reduce cancer disparities in rural communities—such as through workgroups– is imperative. Rural stakeholders may include rural hospital leadership and staff, academic partners, rural non-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, rural cancer survivors and caregivers among many others. Further, the most recent Notice of Funding Opportunity for Comprehensive Cancer Control Programs has encouraged the use of S.M.A.R.T.I.E. objectives. In this acronym, “I” represents “inclusivity” and “E” represents “equity”.  Involving rural stakeholders is inclusive and helps facilitate equity in the plan’s objectives. This also includes sharing rural cancer patients’ and survivors’ stories as part of the consortium’s activities: 

Another panelist from the University of Illinois-Chicago, Leslie Carnahan, detailed her work as an evaluator contracted with the Illinois Department of Public Health and its comprehensive cancer control program to, in part, engage people throughout the state through surveys and focus groups to gain their perspectives to help developing goals, objectives, and strategies, including those around rural populations. In addition to developing rural-focused workgroups, using data collection approaches like surveys or focus groups can help include rural voices who may not be a part of the consortium’s regular activities. Ultimately, this engagement of rural voices culminated in a rural-specific section of their 2022-2027 plan 

In order to inclusively develop equitable objectives, it is critical to engage rural stakeholders in comprehensive cancer control planning processes.  

Author: Whitney Zahnd, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Iowa