People forming cancer ribbon

Community capacity building and sustainability are key to successful state cancer control plans. Community members demonstrate their commitment to cancer prevention by forming the cancer ribbon.

A study lead by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health has the potential to significantly improve the ways that state cancer control programs are developed and implemented around the country.

Researchers affiliated with the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network (CPCRN) analyzed 40 different state cancer prevention plans funded by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control in order to determine how they incorporated community capacity building and sustainability into their plan. Research findings published this month in Frontiers in Public Health demonstrate the importance of including detailed methods for obtaining and implementing funding as well as proposed strategies for increased community involvement in state plans for cancer prevention programs.

In “Promoting Public Health through State Cancer Control Plans: A Review of Capacity and Sustainability,” researchers indicated community capacity was addressed in just over half the plans with few specifics on roles and responsibilities, timelines for action, and measurements for evaluation. Almost all 40 state cancer prevention plans addressed sustainability on a least a cursory level, but with few details on how these strategies would be implemented.

Marcia Ory, Ph.D.

Marcia Ory, Ph.D.

In contrast, the Texas Cancer Plan was selected as a case study of how to incorporate capacity and sustainability, which included highly detailed plans for increasing community participation, capital, and resources as well as plans for gaining and implementing continued funding.

“It is essential that state cancer control plans specifically identify how states will incorporate community involvement, allocate organizational resources, and leverage existing community capital to establish credibility and legitimacy,“ said lead author Regents and Distinguished Professor Marcia Ory, Ph.D., of the Texas A&M School of Public Health. “Plans must address both community capacity building and sustainability in a concrete and realistic manner to assure the success of the important work being undertaken by cancer control and prevention agencies.”

“The initial Texas Cancer Plan was published in 1986, making Texas one of the first states to have a state cancer plan. Texas’ plans are designed to engage stakeholders and their communities from plan initiation through implementation of goals and objectives for cancer control,” said Deborah Vollmer Dahlke, Dr.P.H., co-author and Cancer Alliance of Texas member.

With the release of these findings, study investigators are hopeful that there will be greater attention to these key concepts as they are critical to plans intended to better serve communities. When local cancer prevention programs work together to combine their collective community resources, they increase participation, reinforce a strong chain of leadership, and increase gained capital.

Additional researchers include Cathy Melvin, Ph.D., who was affiliated with the University of North Carolina CPCRN, and Brigid Sanner, who reviewed all of the plans.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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