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Closing the Gap: Participatory Formative Evaluation to Reduce Cancer Screening Disparities among Patients with Limited English Proficiency


Patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) have disproportionately lower rates of cancer screening than English-proficient patients. Given the multifactorial nature of screening disparities, strategies to improve screening rates must address barriers within and outside of the clinic setting. The objectives of this study were to understand local barriers from multiple stakeholder perspectives, to identify potential multilevel intervention approaches, and to mobilize community-engaged intervention decision making and planning. This participatory formative evaluation approach employed needs assessment and user engagement in order to enhance intervention usefulness and relevance. The study took place in several stages and involved clinic and community partners in a small metropolitan area of the Midwest USA. Interviews were conducted with LEP patients (n = 9) who had not completed three recommended screenings (breast, cervical, and colorectal), primary care providers (n = 5), medical interpreter (n = 5), and community members (n = 3). These highlighted multilevel barriers including limited patient understanding of preventive health, time and cost constraints, and variable roles of language interpreters. The literature was also reviewed to identify interventions used with similar populations. Findings from this review suggest that interventions are largely focused on single population groups or address single screening barriers. Finally, a community-academic summit (n = 48 participants) was held to review results and develop recommendations for community and clinic interventions. Findings from this study indicate that it is possible to engage a diverse group of stakeholders in strategies that are responsive to health care providers and patients, including LEP patients from heterogeneous backgrounds.

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Correspondence to Mark L. Wieland.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics Approval and Consent to Participate

This study was approved by the (Mayo Clinic Institutional Review Board) (IRB #17–009432), and interview participants completed oral consent procedures.

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Ridgeway, J.L., Njeru, J.W., Breitkopf, C.R. et al. Closing the Gap: Participatory Formative Evaluation to Reduce Cancer Screening Disparities among Patients with Limited English Proficiency. J Canc Educ (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13187-020-01706-4

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  • Cancer screening
  • Limited English proficiency
  • Community-based participatory research