Residents of rural Appalachia, including Southwest Virginia, have poorer cancer-related health outcomes across the continuum of cancer care and suffer from persistent disparities. In 2013, the University of Virginia (UVA) Cancer Center formed a Cancer Center Without Walls (CCWW) Community Advisory Board (CAB) to engage stakeholders in Southwest Virginia to address these disparities and work to improve access to care in the region. The UVA Cancer Center community outreach and engagement staff have provided organizational support to the CAB since its inception. The CAB currently includes 30+ representatives, and its main focus has been to assist in coordinating cancer outreach programs and to provide insight about the feasibility of UVA researcher-instigated projects. While some pieces of the project are in place, the CCWW CAB has not yet been organized or trained to drive the community-based cancer control research agenda.
Through a series of organizational capacity discussions, the CAB has prioritized patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR). Specifically, the CAB wants to (a) build and strengthen the research capacity among its members related to cancer prevention and early detection; (b) identify actionable PCOR priorities based on local data and stakeholder/patient input; and (c) develop its capacity to conceptualize, plan, mobilize resources, and execute cancer control PCOR projects.
To develop these capacities, the activities in this engagement project will activate two Community Action Teams comprised of a mix of stakeholders/patients and cancer researchers and co-led by CAB and academic/research members; provide five training events for CAB members and one for UVA researchers as a means of practical skill development related to PCOR principles/skills and utilizing existing evidence-based cancer control interventions; and execute steps of the Comprehensive Participatory Planning and Evaluation (CPPE) process with each Community Action Team. A mixed-methods evaluation of the trainings and engagement with the CPPE processes will be conducted, and the CAB and researchers will collaboratively disseminate cancer control strategies and evaluation findings at local, state, and national levels. The completion of these proposed engagement and training activities will improve the readiness, capacity, communication, and motivation of the CAB to engage in cancer-related PCOR projects in rural Appalachia. By doing this, these activities will support the broader objective of the application: building and sustaining the capacity of the CWW CAB to prioritize, act on, and reduce cancer-related disparities in rural Appalachian communities. In the long term, it is anticipated that these efforts will reduce rural Appalachia cancer disparities related to incidence, late-stage diagnosis, survivorship, and mortality.
Through the proposed approach, the project team will include stakeholders/patients and cancer researchers in every stage of the engagement project, including planning, implementation, and dissemination. This project will be led by the UVA Cancer Center and supported by 30+ community representatives. All project activities will be overseen by a coordinating committee that will be comprised of the six leaders of the Community Action Teams (i.e., four patient/stakeholders and two cancer researchers), three community outreach and engagement staff, and the project lead.