Exploring the Role of Community Health Workers in Providing Cancer Navigation: Perceptions of African American Seniors

Purpose/Objectives: To obtain experiential data regarding African American older adult survivors' perceptions of and recommendations on the role of community health workers (CHWs) in providing a cancer navigation intervention.
Research Approach: Focus groups.
Setting: Rural Virginia and urban Maryland.
Participants: 48 African American solid-tumor cancer survivors, aged 65 years or older, with Medicare insurance.
Methodologic Approach: Analysis was accomplished through a reflexive process of transcript review, categorization, and interpretation.
Findings: Themes and accompanying categories identified were uneasiness surrounding the CHW role (disconnect between identified support needs and CHW role, essential CHW characteristics, and potential application of CHWs), recommendations to adequately address cancer needs (coordinating cancer treatment and unmet needs during cancer), and the importance of individualized interventions. Participants provided specific recommendations regarding the role of the CHW and how to develop supportive interventions.
Conclusions: Study participants had surprisingly limited prior exposure to the CHW role. However, they stated that, in certain circumstances, CHWs could effectively assist older adult African Americans undergoing cancer diagnosis or treatment.
Interpretation: Study findings can be helpful to researchers and to healthcare providers engaged in assisting older African Americans during cancer diagnosis and treatment. The results lay a foundation for developing culturally appropriate interventions to assist this at-risk population.