The death rate from colorectal cancer is high and affects poor and medically underserved populations disproportionately. In the United States, health disparities are particularly acute in the Lower Mississippi River Delta region. Because many in the region have limited access to basic health care resources, they are not screened for cancer, even though screening is one of the most effective strategies to prevent colorectal cancer. Community-based participatory research is a promising approach to prevent colorectal cancer in this population.
The Empowering Communities for Life program was implemented in 2 underserved counties in the Arkansas Lower Mississippi River Delta. The program arose from a 9-year partnership between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and 9 cancer councils across Arkansas.
Empowering Communities for Life is a community-based participatory intervention designed to increase colorectal cancer screening in rural, underserved communities through fecal occult blood testing. Community and academic partners collaborated to develop research infrastructure, intervention materials and methods, and the assessment instrument.
Project outcomes were strengthened community-academic partnerships, certification of community partners in conducting human subjects research, development of a randomized controlled design to test the intervention's efficacy, an interactive PowerPoint presentation, an informational pamphlet, the certification of 6 lay health advisors and 22 role models to provide the intervention, and an assessment tool using an audience response system.
Lessons learned in working collaboratively with diverse groups include the importance of meeting face to face and listening.