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Spotlight on the Area We Serve: Wyoming Cancer Coalition

Nov 18, 2022
Nathaniel Ferre, Star Jones, Melissa Yack Hall, PhD, and Chelsey Schlechter, PhD
Nathaniel Ferre, Star Jones, Melissa Yack Hall, PhD, and Chelsey Schlechter, PhD

Wyoming is the ninth-largest state in the U.S. by geographic area, yet the population size is relatively small, with only about 576,000 residents. Forty-seven percent of Wyoming residents live in frontier areas, defined as less than seven people per square mile.

For Wyomingites, the beautiful geography and spectacular landscapes also present travel challenges and access to screening services and preventive care. Add inclement weather during many months of the year, and this creates a huge burden for many residents, especially those who have been diagnosed with cancer and require specialty cancer care.

In 2004, the Wyoming Cancer Coalition was formed to develop and implement a collaborative and comprehensive approach to address these challenges and help lessen the impact of cancer in the state. Currently, the growing coalition is comprised of more than 200 members and is supported by a nine-member steering committee and four working groups.

"The success of the Wyoming Cancer Coalition comes from the strength and passion of its members," says Star Jones, cancer and chronic disease prevention unit manager at the Wyoming State Department of Health.

three people standing next to a sign with facts about wyoming on it
Melissa Yack Hall, PhD, Lisa Eades (co-chair of the Wyoming Cancer Coalition), and Nathaniel Ferre

In October, the coalition hosted their semi-annual fall meeting. Members of Huntsman Cancer Institute's Community Outreach and Engagement team traveled to Casper to attend, present, and network with individuals and organizations.

Chelsey Schlechter, PhD, investigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute's Center for Health Outcomes and Population Equity and assistant professor in the department of population health sciences at the University of Utah, led a talk on evidence-based practices for cancer prevention, specifically relating to tobacco cessation. Schlechter highlighted examples that bring communities and researchers together to create long-term solutions that improve health among underserved populations.

"The Wyoming Cancer Coalition has assembled a passionate group of members that are doing impactful work to address cancer prevention and control in Wyoming," says Schlechter. "It was very valuable to meet members at the coalition meeting and learn more about their work, as well as discuss where partnering in the future might be possible."

In addition to Schlechter's presentation, topics centered around building and maintaining a coalition, Wyoming cancer data, cancer survivorship needs, and a review of activities that energized and expanded the commitment of coalition members on the Wyoming State Cancer Plan 2021-2025.

The plan, produced by the coalition, outlines focus areas and specific goals to reduce the cancer burden in the state over the next five years. Included in this plan are measurable goals to decrease tobacco use and late-stage lung cancer diagnosis, improve and expand resources for cancer survivors, patients, and their families, include palliative care and end-of-life care for childhood cancer patients, and expand partnerships and stakeholder participation.

"We are excited to begin focusing on the work outlined in the Wyoming Cancer Plan and to see what achievements we can accomplish when we work together," says Jones.

ballroom full of tables
Chelsey Schlechter, PhD, speaks at the Wyoming Cancer Coalition semi-annual meeting