FCC, NCI working with Markey to improve rural cancer care via broadband access

Dec. 15, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission’s Connect2Health Task Force (C2HFCC) has announced that the FCC and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have joined forces, signing a memorandum of understanding that will focus on how increasing broadband access and adoption in rural areas can improve the lives of rural cancer patients. As an inaugural project under the memorandum of understanding, the agencies have convened a public-private collaboration that includes the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center to help bridge the broadband health connectivity gap in Appalachia, taking another concrete step toward closing the digital divide.

The FCC press release provided information about the effort:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans living in rural areas are still more likely to die of cancer than their counterparts in urban settings, which sets them apart from the many communities nationwide that have experienced a 20% decrease in cancer mortality over the past two decades. Initial analysis of broadband data and cancer data shows that these rural “cancer hotspots” also face major gaps in broadband access and adoption, often putting promising connected care solutions far out of reach.

In Appalachia, the cancer picture is bleaker than in other rural parts of the country.  Research from University of Virginia School of Medicine has shown that between 1969 and 2011, cancer incidence declined in every region of the country except rural Appalachia, and mortality rates soared.

The project—titled L.A.U.N.C.H. (Linking & Amplifying User-Centered Networks through Connected Health): A Demonstration of Broadband-Enabled Health for Rural Populations in Appalachia—will target areas that face the dual challenge of higher cancer mortality rates and lower levels of broadband access. The initial geographic focus is planned for rural Kentucky.  Highlighting the power of public-private collaborations, current project stakeholders include cancer experts, researchers, technologists, and industry representatives from the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center (a NCI-designated cancer center), the University of California, San Diego’s Design Lab, and Amgen.

The President’s Cancer Panel report, Improving Cancer-Related Outcomes with Connected Health, specifically urged more cross-sector collaboration among those in the healthcare, biomedical research, and technology fields as essential to the future of cancer care. Consistent with this blueprint, the multi-year, cross-sector L.A.U.N.C.H. project will focus on how broadband connectivity can be leveraged to improve symptom management for rural cancer patients, presenting a compelling case for greater deployment and adoption of broadband in rural areas. Symptom management is one of the key priorities of the 2016 Blue Ribbon Panel, a group of scientific experts created to advise the National Cancer Advisory Board.

University of Kentucky has the full story

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