Initial Efforts in Community Engagement with Health Care Providers: Perceptions of Barriers to Care for Cancer Patients in Puerto Rico

Vani N. Simmons, Julio C. Jiménez, Eida Castro, Erika B. Litvin, Clement K. Gwede, Susan T. Vadaparampil, Jessica McIntyre, Cathy D. Meade, Thomas H. Brandon, Gwendolyn P. Quinn


Objective: Cancer health disparities are evident among Puerto Rican Hispanics, both for those on the island and in the mainland United States. Less is known about cancer care services available on the island. Through the Ponce School of Medicine and Moffitt Cancer Center partnership, focus groups with health care providers (HCP) were conducted to explore needs and barriers related to cancer care services with an ultimate goal of developing a cancer control and prevention program for the southern area of Puerto Rico. Methods: To engage the community in outreach efforts to identify barriers to cancer care in Ponce, Puerto Rico, we conducted two focus groups with HCPs from a variety of settings, including general hospitals, private clinics, pharmacies, and government agencies. These 90 minute focus groups were conducted in Spanish and moderated using a semi-structured interview guide that explored the needs and barriers related to cancer control and prevention services. Results: We analyzed content using the emergent material for identifying patterns, themes, and perceptions. Our qualitative analysis indicated that providers had significant concerns about unmet patient needs and system factors, which served as barriers to quality cancer care delivery. Key barriers included unmet practical needs, such as transportation, treatment affordability, lack of resources, and unmet needs for social support and education services. Conclusion: Future research will examine other key informants’ (e.g., patients, caregivers) perspectives and identify which issues can be addressed by the partnership grant and which must be addressed by policymakers.


Hispanic; Cancer; Health Care Providers; Focus Groups

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