Maryland's Special Populations Network. A model for cancer disparities research, education, and training.
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The unequal burden of cancer in minority and underserved communities nationally and in Maryland is a compelling crisis. The Maryland Special Populations Cancer Research Network (MSPN) developed an infrastructure covering Maryland's 23 jurisdictions and Baltimore City through formal partnerships between the University of Maryland School of Medicine, University of Maryland Statewide Health Network, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and community partners in Baltimore City, rural Eastern Shore, rural Western Maryland, rural Southern Maryland, and Piscataway Conoy Tribe and statewide American Indians. Guided by the community-based participatory framework, the MSPN undertook a comprehensive assessment (of needs, strengths, and resources available) that laid the foundation for programmatic efforts in community-initiated cancer awareness and education, research, and training. The MSPN infrastructure was used to implement successful and innovative community-based cancer education interventions and technological solutions; conduct education and promotion of clinical trials, cancer health disparities research, and minority faculty cancer research career development; and leverage additional resources for sustainability. MSPN engaged in informed advocacy among decision- and policymakers at state and national levels, and its community-based clinical trials program was recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a Best Practice Award. The solutions to reduce and eliminate cancer health disparities are complex and require comprehensive and focused multidisciplinary cancer health disparities research, training, and education strategies implemented through robust community-academic partnerships. Cancer 2006. (c) American Cancer Society.