Connecting rural cancer patients and their families and carers with psychosocial support: the development of a website using a Participatory Action Research Framework and Behavioural Change Theory (#90)
Rural cancer patients not only experience the psychosocial challenges associated with a diagnosis of cancer in any setting, but also face a number of additional stressors and barriers to psychosocial service use. Seventeen rural South Australian cancer patients completed semi-structured interviews about their perceptions of psychosocial services and how barriers to access could be overcome. The need for the development of a rurally-relevant resource on psychosocial services to not only inform this population about relevant psychosocial care but also address multiple attitudinal barriers to service use emerged through a thematic analysis. As a result, funding to develop a website was obtained from the State Government health body, the State peak cancer body and a university rural health school. This paper, based on Participatory Action Research principles, will describe how and why participants who identified problems and potential solutions in the first stage of the research (“insiders”), worked with the principal researcher (an “outsider”) to develop the interactive website, “Country Cancer Support”. The use of behavioral change theory to help overcome users’ attitudinal barriers to service use/ encourage help-seeking will also be detailed. For example, the website features quotes from rural cancer patients that convey approval of psychosocial service use by their peers (a behavioral change technique informed by the Theory of Reasoned Action, the Theory of Planned Behavior and the Information-Motivation-Behavioral Skills Model). Another example is the distress screening tool linked to a service directory that provides tailored information and feedback based on the Transtheoretical Model to encourage service use based on users’ particular level of readiness to change/access support. Pilot user satisfaction and acceptability testing of the website has demonstrated the value of employing the expert knowledge of consumers in conjunction with theory when developing such interventions, particularly among rural populations whose unique needs and perceptions are often overlooked or misunderstood. Preliminary results from a formal large-scale evaluation of the website’s usability, acceptability, reach and influence on users’ help-seeking intentions will also be discussed.