Purpose/objectives: To review regional findings about cancer disparities with grass roots community leaders in Appalachia and to identify perspectives about what makes the cancer experience unique in Appalachia.
Research approach: A community-based participatory approach that includes focus-group methodology.
Setting: Work groups gathered in well-known community locations in northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia.
Participants: 22 lay adult community members (12 in Tennessee and 10 in Virginia), all of whom had a personal and community interest in cancer and were reputed as informal community leaders.
Methodologic approach: Work groups engaged in a series of five sequential sessions designed to (a) review regional data about cancer disparities and identify perspectives about what makes the cancer experience unique in Appalachia, (b) promote dialogue between the work group members and healthcare providers to identify methods for improved collaboration, and (c) integrate the work group with regional efforts of the states' comprehensive cancer control plans.
Findings: Four major themes emerged from the focus group sessions with each work group: cancer storytelling, cancer collectivism, healthcare challenges, and cancer expectations. The community research review work groups proved to be a successful method to disseminate information about regional cancer disparities.
Conclusions: Study findings provide a unique foundation so that healthcare providers and researchers can begin to address cancer disparities in the Appalachian region.
Interpretation: Nurses are in key positions to partner with trusted community leaders to address disparities across the cancer continuum in Appalachia.