Volume 5: No. 2, April 2008
COMMUNITY CASE STUDY
A Case Study of the South
Puget Intertribal Planning Agency’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Planning
and Community Mobilization Process
Carrie Nass, MPH, CHES, John Simmons, BA, Deborah Bowen, PhD, Teresa
Guthrie, RN, MN
Suggested citation for this article: Nass C,
Simmons J, Bowen D, Guthrie T. A case study of the South Puget Intertribal
Planning Agency's comprehensive cancer control planning and community
mobilization process. Prev Chronic Dis 2008;5(2).
apr/06_0186.htm. Accessed [date].
The high rates of cancer among American Indians and Alaska Natives are of
In response to high cancer rates, national, state, and tribal organizations have
worked to assess knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and screening practices related
to cancer in American Indian and Alaska Native communities and to increase
awareness and use of cancer screening. The National Comprehensive Cancer Control
Program (NCCCP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one such
effort. NCCCP’s comprehensive cancer control (CCC) planning process provides a
new approach to planning and implementing cancer control programs. The CCC
process and components for American Indians and Alaska Natives are not yet fully
understood because this is a fairly new approach for these communities.
Therefore, the purpose of our case study was to describe the CCC process and its
outcomes and successes as applied to these communities and to identify key
components and lessons learned from the South Puget Intertribal Planning
Agency’s (SPIPA’s) CCC planning and community mobilization process.
We used interviews, document reviews, and observations to collect data on
SPIPA’s CCC planning and community mobilization process.
We identified the key components of SPIPA’s CCC as funding and hiring key staff,
partnering with outside organizations, developing a project management plan and
a core planning team, creating community cancer orientations, conducting
community cancer surveys, developing a community advisory committee, ongoing
training and engaging of the community advisory committee, and supporting the
leadership of the communities involved.
The CCC planning process is a practicable model, even for groups with little
experience or few resources. The principles identified in this case study can be
applied to the cancer control planning process for other tribes.
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American Indian and Alaska Native communities have significantly worse cancer
rates and poorer access to cancer control interventions than do non-Native
populations (1). Opportunities exist to reduce these disparities through special
initiatives, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National
Comprehensive Cancer Control Program (NCCCP). The NCCCP’s comprehensive cancer
control (CCC) model is a collaborative process through which a community and its
partners pool resources to promote cancer prevention, improve cancer detection,
and increase access to health services to reduce the burden of cancer. The goal
of CCC is to help reduce cancer risk, detect cancers earlier, improve
treatments, and enhance survivorship and quality of life for people with cancer
(2). A successful CCC planning process helps states and tribes to focus on
cancer and to implement cancer control interventions; however, there is not yet
a full understanding of how to conduct CCC planning successfully in tribal
communities or of what planning components are.
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The specific aims of our case study, conducted in 2005 and 2006, were to
describe the CCC process, outcomes, and successes and to identify key components
and lessons learned from the South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency’s (SPIPA’s)
CCC planning and community mobilization process. SPIPA, created in 1976, is a
five-tribe consortium headquartered in Shelton, Washington, that serves the
Chehalis, Nisqually, Skokomish, Squaxin Island, and Shoalwater Bay tribes. SPIPA
supports each tribe’s vision of success and wellness by delivering social and
health services through training, technical assistance, resource development,
and planning (3). SPIPA is governed by its Board of Directors comprising tribal
council members and representatives from each of the five SPIPA tribes.
American Indians and Alaska Natives in Washington State have a lower
incidence of most cancers than does the total population (4,5); however, they
have lower screening rates for cancer, more risk factors, and lower survival
rates than the general U.S. population (4). There are many reasons for these
disparities. Like many other American Indian and Alaska Native communities,
SPIPA tribe members had a fear of the word
cancer and often did not talk about it. Having the time and resources to
plan for cancer control gave the SPIPA tribal communities time to talk about
cancer, think about cancer, fight cancer, and support those with cancer.
Table describes the specific cultural considerations
in the CCC planning process and how SPIPA responded to them.
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Our case study included direct observation of SPIPA’s CCC planning process;
in-depth semistructured interviews with 13 key informants selected from tribal
health clinic staff, SPIPA CCC program staff, members of the SPIPA Community
Advisory Committee, and tribal leaders not involved in the CCC planning process;
and detailed review of meeting minutes. We used purposive sampling to identify
the key informants for interview. Eleven (85%) of the 13 key informants selected
were American Indian.
We recorded interviews with key informants either on tape or in writing. We
analyzed these interviews in two ways, according to methods
suggested by Yin for case study analyses (6). First, we grouped the interview
responses by key informant type (e.g., tribal leader, community advisory
committee member). We then counted the number of times similar types of answers
came up on each question. We added the number of similar responses to give a
rough estimate of the relative importance of the various components of SPIPA’s
CCC planning process that the key informants identified. To ensure reliability,
wherever possible, we compared key informant interview data with observational
data from the informants’ involvement with the SPIPA CCC planning process. Key
informants’ rights were protected throughout the entire process. SPIPA does not
have an institutional review board, so we received approval from SPIPA’s Board
of Directors and the University of Washington’s Institutional Review Board.
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Analysis of field notes, observations, meeting minutes, and key informant
interviews revealed eight principles in SPIPA’s CCC planning process (Figure),
which we describe below along with quotes from tribal members interviewed and
areas we identified where SPIPA could improve its CCC planning process.
View enlarged image and descriptive text ]
Figure. Mission, goals, objectives, and strategies for
cancer control, South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency, comprehensive cancer
control planning and community mobilization process, drafted by tribal community
Funding and hiring key staff
Before seeking funding for its CCC program, SPIPA staff asked elders
in the community about their needs for cancer education, screening, treatment,
and support programs. These conversations led SPIPA staff to seek funding for
Program participant: My earliest conversations about cancer were with elders and
others in the community. This was kind of the traditional start of a project in
the SPIPA community. It starts with conversations about something the people
have experienced and want. This led to the CDC
SPIPA hired a CCC project coordinator to lead the CCC project shortly after
funding was initiated. The project coordinator was an active member of a tribe
served by SPIPA, was a respected tribal leader, and was experienced in program
planning and community mobilization. Interviewees stated that experience,
passion and enthusiasm for the work, and the ability to engage the communities
were necessary staff attributes for the project to succeed.
Program participant: Well, I think it was a big project and I knew before we
hired a project coordinator that this was an important project; despite the lack
of expertise that I had, somehow I had to move it forward. As for myself, I
think being able to feel comfortable with my project coordinator and not having
to look over their shoulder, but just to provide guidance as needed and allow
that person the freedom to move forward in getting the project off the ground
[has been important]. That
person has done a great job.
Partnering with outside organizations
Part of SPIPA’s innovative planning process was to bring in three outside
partners and their resources to assist a traditionally underfunded tribal system.
SPIPA identified three key partners that shared its mission of reducing cancer
disparities: the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information
Service–Northwest Region, Spirit of EAGLES, and the Alliance for Reducing
Cancer, Northwest. The support these agencies provided was detailed in a
memorandum of understanding at the start of this process.
As the CCC planning process gained momentum, the SPIPA Community Advisory
Committee brought in other outside organizations, including the American Cancer
Society, the American Lung Association, the Northwest Portland Area Indian
Health Board, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the Washington
Comprehensive Cancer Control Partnership. Although both the Washington State
Department of Health and the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board have
CCC funding, SPIPA had not been involved in their CCC planning efforts and
wanted to develop an independent plan by and for SPIPA tribal members.
The interviewees expressed how important the partnerships have been and how
vital it is for outside agencies to be respectful of each tribe’s culture and
Program participant: I can’t leave out the part either regarding the wonderful
partnerships with other outside agencies and organizations who work with cancer.
I think that we’ve done quite well in that arena to have them come and sit at
the table with us and have them be respectful of our tribal communities and
respectful of the fact those sitting on our community advisory committee may not
have the education and background that they have working with cancer. But just
the respectfulness says a lot and their willingness to provide training and to
provide that training so that it’s at a level of understanding for our community
Developing a project management plan and core planning team
SPIPA’s CCC planning and community mobilization process marked the first time
SPIPA used a systematic business model for planning a health or social services
program. SPIPA’s CCC coordinator used his expertise in business to apply the
principles of core project management to the planning process. The project
management plan consisted of identification of program goals and objectives,
delegation of responsibilities and tasks, and a strategic plan to move the SPIPA
communities in the direction of their stated vision, “cancer free tribal
Program participant: When you assign these responsibilities, you have to select
people who have some kind of business knowledge and/or desire to achieve those
You need to select those kinds of people based on what project you’re
doing and the areas they work in. It is really key to have a core planning team
because one person can’t do, or think of, all the things that need to be done.
Conducting community cancer orientations
Cancer community orientations were identified as a first step toward ensuring
that the SPIPA CCC program truly was a community-driven process. The
orientations were intended to increase community awareness of the CCC project,
remove barriers and mitigate fears of cancer, increase participants’
understanding of cancer by conducting a basic Cancer 101 training,
encourage tribal and community members to become members of the cancer advisory
committee, and provide opportunities for community input on cancer control
priorities. The significance of the orientations emerged in comments from
interviewees regarding the positive effect of the sessions on generating
interest among tribal communities in learning more about cancer in general and
about SPIPA’s CCC program. Participants expressed a need to repeat the cancer
training and continue educational activities focusing on cancer prevention,
screening, treatment, and survivor support.
Program participant: Since I’m the tribal clinic health director, I felt that it
was important to attend. There was good energy in the community after the
meeting and many discussions regarding cancer services at the tribal health
clinic... a good opportunity to connect with the tribal community.
An oncology nurse and a community health educator conducted education
sessions, Cancer 101: An Education and Training Program for American
Indians and Alaska Natives
(7), at each of the community orientations. Designed by and for American Indians
and Alaska Natives, Cancer 101 is adaptable to the needs of the
individual learner. The curriculum includes seven learning modules that cover
cancer basics, such as how normal cells become cancerous, methods of early
detection and screening, cancer treatment, and survivorship.
Program participant: The education that I got through the Cancer 101 training really
pinpointed some important issues that we needed to address with the committee,
such as the types of cancers, the fact that there doesn’t always have to be fear
of cancer. Therefore, the information that was given to the community was
helpful. It took a lot of the fear out of talking about cancer and for me
personally. I was fearful to go get a PSA test because of all of the cancer in
my family, and after the cancer training I didn’t have that fear – I went and
did it and found out that I was very healthy.
Conducting community cancer surveys
Community cancer surveys, distributed at the end of the community cancer
orientations, provided the foundation for priorities in SPIPA’s CCC plan (8).
Over 400 surveys gave voice to the opinions and concerns of tribal and community
members regarding cancer issues important to them. Overall priorities identified
for inclusion in SPIPA’s CCC plan were early detection of cancer and cancer
screening, cancer education and prevention, cancer treatment, and cancer
Developing a community advisory committee
The SPIPA Community Advisory Committee provided the foundation for the CCC
program and was its driving force. Committee membership consisted of
representatives from each of the five tribes, SPIPA’s CCC program staff, and
staff from other partner organizations. Tribal representatives included tribal
clinic staff, cancer survivors, tribal elders, and tribal leaders. With guidance
from SPIPA CCC program staff, advisory committee members reviewed tribal cancer
priorities, as stated in the community cancer surveys, and assisted in writing
SPIPA’s CCC plan. As a fundamental component of community-based participatory
programs, all decisions were made in consultation with the community advisory
committee — from broad decisions to specific ones (9). SPIPA’s Community
Advisory Committee enabled its CCC program staff to link with and build on the
strengths and resources within the tribal communities. The community advisory
committee met monthly.
Program participant: One strength is that this project has gotten a core group of
tribal members to be involved to listen to their input. The core group that is
involved usually doesn’t attend community meetings, so it’s good to see them
involved. It may be due to them being affected by cancer.
This is the best organized committee that I’ve been involved with — it is
really well organized. The agenda is sent before the meetings, and it’s not
written in stone. We’re always free to talk about anything that we feel is
important; we’re led through the process, but not told how to do it. We are
always allowed to have input . . . very little wasted time. We’re always
accomplishing something at the meetings, and you are never bored.
Training and engaging the community advisory committee
As the driving force behind the CCC program, the SPIPA Community Advisory
Committee wanted to improve its leadership capacity with continued education.
This education included advanced cancer training conducted by the same oncology
nurse and community health educator who presented the Cancer 101 sessions
and training on goal and objective writing before the CCC plan was written. Interviewees who served as community advisory
members indicated that the trainings improved their ability to assist family and
community members with cancer questions and needs and helped prepare them to
assist in writing SPIPA’s CCC plan.
Program participant: The number one strength [of the CCC project]
is that the SPIPA staff pulled in professional advisors to help us better understand cancer.
Through the knowledge that we acquired through the educational sessions, it made
it easy for us to put together a really good cancer plan.
Supporting the leadership of the communities involved
A final and critical component of SPIPA’s CCC planning process was the
support and approval of the SPIPA Board of Directors and each of the five tribal
councils. Throughout the planning process, SPIPA’s CCC coordinator updated
tribal leaders through presentations to the board and tribal councils and
through written updates. The SPIPA draft CCC plan was formally presented to the
SPIPA Board of Directors and each of the five tribal councils for approval. The
ongoing communication and updates with tribal councils and the board resulted in
unanimous approval for the plan. In December 2005, the SPIPA Board of Directors
approved the adoption and implementation of the SPIPA Comprehensive Cancer
Program participant: Every tribal leadership needs to be willing to make this a
priority in order for this to succeed. Regular updates at tribal council
meetings are important so that tribal council members can get the most
appropriate people to be involved.
Areas of SPIPA’s CCC planning process that could be improved
Many components of this project made it successful, although the interview
data also identified two areas for improvement. Tribal health clinic provider
input was sought from the beginning of planning, although few were actively
involved throughout the process.
Program participant: I’d really like to see providers and health directors
involved. More input from providers is needed.
To get more providers involved you need to be clear at the beginning that
they are needed. If that would have been clear, then I would have had one of my
A SPIPA CCC medical advisory panel has now been formed as a venue to obtain
provider input formally.
The second key area for improvement is increasing the involvement of men. Of
the 27 community advisory committee members, 88% were women. A cancer workshop
focusing on men is one of many activities that the SPIPA CCC Advisory Committee
is currently working on to increase their involvement.
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Case study findings indicated that SPIPA will need to identify tribal cancer
survivors and role models, including men, who can share their stories. Since the
case study was completed, SPIPA has been successfully implementing its CCC plan
and will continue to do so to reduce the burden of cancer among their tribal
The planning process is feasible, even for tribes with little experience and
resources. The principles identified in the case study could help structure the
cancer control planning process for other tribes.
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Corresponding Author: Carrie Nass, MPH, CHES, National Cancer Institute’s
Cancer Information Service–Northwest Region, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research
Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue North, J2-400, P.O. Box 19024, Seattle, WA 98109.
Telephone: 206-667-5477. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Affiliations: John Simmons, South Puget Intertribal Planning Agency,
Shelton, Washington; Deborah Bowen, University of Washington Fred Hutchinson
Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington; Teresa Guthrie, National Cancer
Institute’s Cancer Information Service–Northwest Region, Seattle, Washington.
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