Home to nearly 26 million people, the Appalachian Region encompasses the full state of West Virginia as well as pieces of 12 other states, spanning 206,000 square miles. Although metropolitan areas anchor much of the region, a fourth of Appalachia’s 423 counties are rural, characterized by generational poverty and a lack of key resources, such as adequate healthcare.
This is evidenced in the overall Appalachian cancer mortality rate that runs 10 percent higher than the national average. Appalachia’s most rural populations also experience higher cancer death rates (over 15 percent) compared to the rest of the nation. In central Appalachia, the rate of cancer occurrence is 32 percent higher than the rest of the United States. In particular, Appalachian Kentucky has the highest rates of cancer burden, which exceed the national average by 35 percent.
To address these disparities, the Associations of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) joined several of its oncology state societies located throughout the region to create the Appalachian Community Cancer Alliance.
The alliance seeks to provide residents of the Appalachian Region with interdisciplinary, patient-centered approaches to cancer care, beginning with prevention and throughout survivorship, with an emphasis on enhanced quality of life. The alliance’s goal is to develop proven, practical solutions for improving the entire cancer care continuum in Appalachia and all underserved areas of the U.S.
Specifically, the alliance seeks input from all stakeholders to help:
Through its oncology state society partners, the alliance seeks to attract participation from all members of the multidisciplinary care team, including administrators, medical oncologists, advanced practice providers, oncology nurses, pathologists, quality improvement managers, other allied healthcare professionals, and community organizations and individuals committed to improving cancer care in rural Appalachia.
The alliance’s efforts will align with ACCC’s Rural Appalachian Lung Cancer Screening Initiative to improve cancer care delivery in the region. ACCC member program leadership created this screening initiative in reaction to the steep declines in cancer screening rates that were precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It looks to identify and address barriers to cancer screenings in the counties most affected by the pandemic. Recognized by President and First Lady Biden, the Rural Appalachian Lung Cancer Screening Initiative will leverage ACCC’s existing portfolio of tools and best practices for reducing cancer deaths in underserved populations, and its advisory committee will be comprised of interdisciplinary stakeholders of the Appalachian Region’s oncology state societies.
Together, the Appalachian Community Cancer Alliance and Rural Appalachian Lung Cancer Screening Initiative are building upon ACCC’s proven cancer prevention tools for the community, such as its Fostering Excellence in Care and Outcomes in Patients with Stage III and IV NSCLC education program, publication series on improving care coordination patients with lung cancer on Medicaid, and “Understanding & Improving Lung Cancer Treatment in Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in the Community Setting” whitepaper.
To learn more about the alliance’s sponsored activities or to become an advisory committee member, contact Ashley Lile, ACCC program manager. Then sign up to receive regular updates on the alliance’s progress and/or to participate in upcoming online learning opportunities like webinars and other events.
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