Cancer Center Network Launches Efforts Targeting Appalachia

The Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) is launching two new efforts targeted at improving cancer screening, care, and mortality rates for the Appalachian region of the United States.

The ACCC is a network of 28,000 multidisciplinary practitioners from 2,100 hospitals and practices nationwide. As impetus for this new effort, it pointed to a 2020 report that found the region’s cancer mortality rate is 10 percent higher than the national cancer mortality rate. Central Appalachia has the highest cancer rate in the region at 32 percent higher than the national rate.

To address these issues, ACCC has created the Appalachian Community Cancer Alliance, with funding support from Bristol Myers Squibb.  The Alliance will institute several different strategies, including:

• Solicit providers’ perceptions regarding equity in access to cancer care;
• Help cancer programs introduce patient-centric approaches to implementing guideline-abiding cancer screening among rural Appalachian communities;
• Develop interventions to promote screening efforts;
• Implement patient-centered communication strategies to overcome informational barriers between providers and patients;
• Discuss implementing cancer clinicals within treatment plans for patients in rural Appalachian communities; and
• Enhance quality of life and survivorship of cancer patients in rural Appalachia.

ACCC has also launched the Rural Appalachian Lung Cancer Screening Initiative. ACCC will gather an advisory committee consisting of ACCC and Oncology State Society stakeholders, including patient advocacy representatives, oncology and public health experts from the area, and lung cancer screening navigators, with the goal to:

• Identify and address challenges in implementing lung cancer screening programs in rural Appalachian communities;
• Innovate to increase guideline-abiding lung cancer screenings; and
• Assess patient-centered screening education communication strategies to overcome informational, literacy, and cultural barriers. 

These initiatives will build on ACCC’s portfolio of resources and tools, including “Fostering Excellence in Care and Outcomes in Patients with Stage III and IV NSCLC,” “Improving Care Coordination A Model for Lung Cancer Patients on Medicaid,” and “Understanding & Improving Lung Cancer Treatment in Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in the Community Setting.”

Concerned about the effect that the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency has had on screening rates—including screening for lung cancer—ACCC and its member programs are committing time and resources to successfully get people back into the clinic for their life-saving preventative appointments. Best practices and screening resources will be collected and shared with ACCC pilot sites with the potential to engage up to 30 percent more eligible individuals in the first five years of the “Rural Appalachian Lung Cancer Screening Initiative.” Upon project completion, learnings will be disseminated to all 2100 ACCC cancer programs and practices nationwide.


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