Appalachia Project to Study Relationship Between Increased Broadband Access, Improved Cancer Care

Feb. 1, 2018
The Federal Communications Commission and the National Cancer Institute have joined forces to focus on how increasing broadband access and adoption in rural areas can improve the lives of rural cancer patients.

The Federal Communications Commission’s Connect2Health Task Force (C2HFCC) has announced that the FCC and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have joined forces to focus on how increasing broadband access and adoption in rural areas can improve the lives of rural cancer patients. 

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.  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. 

As an inaugural project under a memorandum of understanding, the agencies have convened a public-private collaboration to help bridge the broadband health connectivity gap in Appalachia. 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.  Project stakeholders include cancer experts, researchers, technologists and industry representatives from the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center (an NCI-designated cancer center), the University of California, San Diego’s Design Lab and Amgen. 

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. 

“Research suggests that when patients report symptoms electronically to their care providers they are almost twice as likely to report improvements to health-related quality of life than those in a disconnected control group,” said Bradford Hesse, Ph.D., Chief, Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch, National Cancer Institute, in a prepared statement. “Electronically connected patients were also less likely to be admitted to the emergency room and had greater survival rates than patients in the control group.  Collaborating with the FCC is a vital step for improving cancer outcomes for all Americans, regardless of where they live.”

Additional information about the FCC-NCI memorandum and the broadband health demonstration project will be available online at https://www.fcc.gov/health/cancer

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