Implementing a Cancer Disparities/Health Equity Strategic Planning Need Assessment in Massachusetts

Dates: 2013-2014

State: Massachusetts

Client(s): MA Comprehensive Cancer Prev & Control Program

Service: Applied Research & Evaluation

Technical Expertise: Health Disparities


JSI worked with the Massachusetts Comprehensive Cancer Prevention and Control Program (MCCPCP) to implement a comprehensive community assessment. This activity was one of the strategies of the 2012-2016 MCCPC State Plan.

In the first phase of the project, JSI worked in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and the Disparities/Health Equity Workgroup to identify a region/sub-region, Southeastern MA, that would be the focus of the Cancer Disparities/Health Equity Strategic Planning Needs Assessment. At the start of the project, JSI, MDPH, and the workgroup determined the geographic level of interest (county, town/city, Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS)) and JSI collected quantitative data at that geographic level to inform the needs assessment and planning process. The goal was to select a region that has significantly higher cancer and other chronic diseases (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc.) rates than other regions in Massachusetts, and/or has certain sub-populations that have significantly higher rates than other groups within the same region. JSI explored the use of other state and local data sources that provided additional information on cancer incidence, prevalence, mortality, hospitalization and related disparities.

In the second phase, further qualitative information was gathered to develop a full understanding of the barriers and factors that lead to health inequity. Following discussions with the MCCPCP and the Cancer Disparities/Health Equity Work Group, JSI contacted potential local and regional stakeholder groups in the selected high need region. The goals were to identify interested parties, develop working relationships, and gather informal preliminary information about the regional cancer issues and needs. The preliminary information obtained from discussions with these stakeholders as well as relevant documents were used to help shape the content and formats of the key informant and focus group interviews in the next phase of the regional needs assessment process.

In Phase 2, JSI conducted focus groups and key informant interviews with identified local and regional stakeholders. Qualitative data was collected from a broad range of stakeholders through this process, from Haitian men in Brockton to older adults in Wareham and adult education learners in New Bedford. Discussions were held with regional health and wellness coalitions, health providers, and multilingual community health workers working in public housing, prisons, faith-based organizations, and other community settings.

From this project, JSI helped identify needs, priorities, and barriers to care and to offered recommendations for strategies or programmatic options (e.g. targeted educational outreach for underserved groups and quality improvement projects for clinics) to advance regional prevention activities, ensure appropriate screening, and improve access to culturally competent, high quality care. JSI also summarized any best practices currently utilized by providers or health care facilities in order to identify and reduce cancer and chronic disease disparities across Massachusetts.


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