Bridging the Digital Divide

The National Cancer Institute recently allocated about $1 million to its public information outlet, the Cancer Information Service, to increase awareness of and improve access to Internet-based cancer information in minority communities. Four of 14 regional CIS centers will make use of the funds: CIS of New York (based at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center), CIS of the North Central Region (University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center), CIS of the Mid-West Region (Karmanos Cancer Cent

Jan 8, 2001
Kate Devine

The National Cancer Institute recently allocated about $1 million to its public information outlet, the Cancer Information Service, to increase awareness of and improve access to Internet-based cancer information in minority communities. Four of 14 regional CIS centers will make use of the funds: CIS of New York (based at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center), CIS of the North Central Region (University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center), CIS of the Mid-West Region (Karmanos Cancer Center), CIS of the New England Region (Yale Cancer Center), and CIS of the Mid-South Region (Markey Cancer Center and Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center).

The CIS of New York will implement a project called "Bridging the Digital Divide Project: Your Access to Cancer Information." The digital divide, between those who have computer access and those who do not, is considered a growing health care problem. According to NCI, about 20 percent of the nation's population, or 50 million Americans, do not have access to Internet cancer information due to factors that include lack of computer access, education, and literacy. For this project, CIS will partner with Harlem community organizations that provide Internet access to residents.

According to Rosemarie Slevin Perocchia, director of CIS New York, "the training is not so much designed to teach the participants about cancer as much as it is designed to provide them with the skills necessary to search for cancer information on the Internet." She also notes that trainers from the partnering organizations will present the workshops using the Train-the-Trainer approach.

Slevin Perocchia says that all of the training will be Web-based using the site CancerInfoNet.org, designed specifically for this project. "CancerInfoNet.org includes the curriculum for the workshops as well as information for the trainer. It will also serve to collect information about the participants, which will help us to evaluate the effectiveness of the workshops."

In addition to basic Web navigational techniques, the workshop will provide information on various cancers including breast, prostate, lung, and colon and rectal cancer. Other topics will include prevention/early detection, cancer research, and cancer resources. Slevin Perocchia reports, "Not all topics will be taught in the one hour and fifteen minutes that is provided, but all participants who have attended a class will receive a user ID, which will allow them to access the training site after the class. Participants will leave the workshop with the skills to practice on their own."

CIS is in the process of creating the training Web site and plans to start training the community and health professionals in January. Training for health care professionals uses the same topics but different links. The last few months will be used for data analysis. For the future, Slevin Perocchia reports, "The program will be left in the community and is designed to be continued by the trainers at these sites ... However, the NCI may wish to continue these projects if they are successful and or extend them to other areas of the state."

 

Kate Devine can be contacted at kdevine@the-scientist.com.