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Prioritizing rural populations in state comprehensive cancer control plans: a qualitative assessment.

PURPOSE: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (NCCCP) requires that states develop comprehensive cancer control (CCC) plans and recommends that disparities related to rural residence are addressed in these plans. The objective of this study was to explore rural partner engagement and describe effective strategies for incorporating a rural focus in CCC plans.

METHODS: States were selected for inclusion using stratified sampling based on state rurality and region. State cancer control leaders were interviewed about facilitators and barriers to engaging rural partners and strategies for prioritizing rural populations. Content analysis was conducted to identify themes across states.

RESULTS: Interviews (n = 30) revealed themes in three domains related to rural inclusion in CCC plans. The first domain (barriers) included (1) designing CCC plans to be broad, (2) defining "rural populations," and (3) geographic distance. The second domain (successful strategies) included (1) collaborating with rural healthcare systems, (2) recruiting rural constituents, (3) leveraging rural community-academic partnerships, and (4) working jointly with Native nations. The third domain (strategies for future plan development) included (1) building relationships with rural communities, (2) engaging rural constituents in planning, (3) developing a better understanding of rural needs, and (4) considering resources for addressing rural disparities.

CONCLUSION: Significant relationship building with rural communities, resource provision, and successful strategies used by others may improve inclusion of rural needs in state comprehensive cancer control plans and ultimately help plan developers directly address rural cancer health disparities.

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