Rural residents face unique challenges when it comes to accessing quality, comprehensive cancer care which has greatly impacted their ability to lead a healthy life. This can include transportation barriers, lowered availability of screening measures, lack of access to specialized care and a lack of access to culturally informed treatment options. These barriers have led to an increased incidence of cancers that can be prevented by cancer screenings, such as colorectal and cervical cancers, as well as higher cancer death rates in rural areas.

In an effort to address this disparity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (NCCCP) requires that states develop comprehensive cancer control (CCC) plans and recommends that disparities related to rural residence are addressed in these plans. Dr. Whitney Zahnd and colleagues of the Advancing Cancer and Rural Equity (ACRE) Lab interviewed state cancer control leaders on facilitators and barriers for engaging rural partners and strategies for prioritizing rural populations. Interviews revealed themes in three domains related to rural inclusion in CCC plans.

  1. The first domain, barriers, included (1) designing CCC plans to be broad, (2) defining “rural populations,” and (3) geographic distance.
  2. The second domain, successful strategies, included (1) collaborating with rural healthcare systems, (2) recruiting rural constituents, (3) leveraging rural community–academic partnerships, and (4) working jointly with Native nations.
  3. The third domain, strategies for future plan development, included (1) building relationships with rural communities, (2) engaging rural constituents in planning, (3) developing a better understanding of rural needs, and (4) considering resources for addressing rural disparities.

The study found that significant relationship building with rural communities, resource provision, and successful strategies used by others may improve inclusion of rural needs in state comprehensive cancer control plans and ultimately help plan developers directly address rural cancer health disparities. You can read the full article titled “Prioritizing rural populations in state comprehensive cancer control plans: a qualitative assessment” here.

Dr. Whitney Zahand and GHEA will be hosting a webinar detailing the results of this study titled, “Barriers and Successful Strategies for Engaging Rural Populations in State Comprehensive Cancer Control Planning: Program Manger Perspectives” on September 25th at 11 AM EST. Registration is now open.