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Partnerships Beyond State Lines

In 2021, we formalized our commitment to the residents of the five-state Mountain West region by expanding the area we serve.

Serving this area has long been part of Huntsman Cancer Institute’s ethos and formalizing our reach is simply the right thing to do.

The Mountain West is a vast, 524,000-square-mile region. With a population of nearly 10 million people, and with Utah, Idaho, and Nevada all ranked among the top five fastest growing states in the 2020 U.S. Census, the challenge is great, and opportunities abound.

"To successfully plan, prioritize, and implement evidence-based interventions that reduce the burden of cancer for all patients and populations in the Mountain West, we need to strategize with our partners to make the biggest impact with our collaborators," says Tracy Onega, PhD, interim senior director of Community Outreach and Engagement and senior director of population sciences at Huntsman Cancer Institute. "Collaboration that is truly bidirectional and grounded in trust with a shared goal to improve health is paramount."

Since the inception of Huntsman Cancer Institute’s Community Advisory Board, cancer control leaders from each state have partnered with Huntsman Cancer Institute to establish priorities, contribute strategic feedback, and build capacity for projects.

Through this collaboration, Huntsman Cancer Institute has been able to extend tobacco cessation efforts to Nevada and fund survivorship efforts among rural and underserved populations and low-resource health care settings in Montana. Additional ongoing efforts include a three-year project funded by the American Cancer Society to reduce disparities in human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates in adolescents across each Mountain West state, and the development of a system for health assessment and population data equity to efficiently monitor the needs of the region.

This year, each state also updated its respective Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan. This process, which takes place every five years, provides a road map to address the burden of cancer in each state. For the first time, Huntsman Cancer Institute was able to engage with each group in the development of these plans to align priorities and strategize opportunities.


"In Montana, access to medical care remains one of the biggest challenges to cancer and achieving health equity. In our rural state, a visit to a provider or specialist requires extra financial resources, reliable transportation, time off work, child care, and more. These needs are exacerbated for those in frontier and reservation areas. We have an opportunity to apply new, flexible models of health care delivery across prevention, early detection, and survivorship."

Leah Merchant
Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services


"Collaboration is at the heart of our cancer control efforts. Problem solving and partnering on solutions—not only within a community, but across state lines with our neighbors—provides us with expanded knowledge, capacity, and resources to make a greater impact across the Mountain West."

Cari Herington, MBA
Nevada Cancer Coalition


"Utah is in a period of dramatic change: rapid population growth, increasing housing insecurity, and the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these challenges, new and innovative partnerships are being formed that engage communities in deeper and more meaningful ways."

Brad Belnap, MPP
Utah Department of Health


"It is vital that we do not duplicate efforts or reinvent the wheel. There are great lessons to be learned from other partners—locally and regionally. When we share our challenges, it opens the opportunity for brainstorming and resource sharing."

Star Jones, CPM
Wyoming Department of Health


"Idaho has some of the lowest cancer screening rates in the United States. Our biggest opportunity moving forward is to work with populations that are disproportionately experiencing health disparities to ensure access to preventive care, treatment, and survivorship care for all."

Becky Creighton, MPH
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare