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Team Aims to Close Rural-Urban Cancer Survival Gap

August 27, 2019

While people in rural areas across the U.S. are less likely than urban dwellers to be diagnosed with cancer, they are more likely to die from it. A multidisciplinary team of researchers from The University of Kansas Cancer Center has received a five-year, $2.25 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study why there are survival rate disparities in rural parts of Kansas, and how to improve them.

A 2017 report revealed that, from 2011 to 2015, the age-adjusted rate of cancer deaths in rural areas was 180 per 100,000 individuals, compared with 158 in large metropolitan areas.
KU Cancer Center’s catchment, or service, area encompasses 105 counties in Kansas and 18 in western Missouri. Of them, 96 are labeled rural or frontier. According to co-principal investigator Jennifer Klemp, PhD, MPH, the study will connect cancer center specialists with primary care clinicians in local communities. About 73 percent of cancer survivors in Kansas receive most of their health care from primary care clinicians.

“The follow-up care of rural cancer survivors remains largely unstudied,” Dr. Klemp said. “Working closely with community-based rural practices, we intend to pinpoint those barriers to care and increase access to evidence-based care and resources using a shared-care model between primary and cancer care providers as well as a novel telehealth platform.

The multidisciplinary team will work with rural community providers, managers, nursing and staff members over the phone, focusing on evidence-based practice guidelines for breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancers.

Allen Greiner, MD, MPH, co-principal investigator, added that this effort will be the first steps in testing KanSurvive, a Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes)-based model, which aims to fortify community clinicians with the knowledge and support they need to care for cancer survivors.

“The Project ECHO model uses technology to bring support to geographically dispersed community clinicians to help them improve care and build a learning system,” Dr. Greiner said. “This has the potential to reduce long-term cancer mortality and improve the quality of life for cancer survivors across Kansas and western Missouri.”

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