Needs Assessment Report

a 2015 community-wide assessment of the cancer needs in El Paso County


In April 2015, the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation commissioned Health Resources in Action (HRiA), a non-profit public health organization, to conduct a community cancer health assessment of El Paso County. The assessment aimed to cover several goals:

  • Provide a portrait of El Paso County’s cancer community and sub-populations most at risk
  • Identify the community’s current cancer support services and programs as well as gaps in services
  • Understand community residents’ challenges to accessing cancer care and support services and providers’ concerns in offering services
  • Identify areas of strength and opportunities for improvement in cancer health care and support
  • Recommend potential strategies, approaches and next steps for improving the cancer care and support system in El Paso County, informed by resident and provider input and the larger cancer support literature

Key Themes


Social and economic environment

  • The high Hispanic and military populations, a higher rate of unemployment and poverty compared to residents statewide and lower levels of educational attainment than Texas overall supports that data on behavioral and disease distribution consistently follow social and economic patterns.Communities with poorer socio-economic conditions generally suffer from the highest prevalence of specific diseases and risk behaviors.

General Health and Access to Care

  • In 2014, over one quarter of El Paso residents reported being in fair or poor health, compared to just 18% statewide.The leading cause of mortality in El Paso mirrors that of Texas and the U.S. overall with cancer being the second highest cause of death next to heart disease.A greater proportion of El Paso residents are uninsured or have Medicaid compared to the state average and the number of physicians to patient ratio is 2,166 per primary care physician, which is higher than the statewide ratio of 1,708 residents to each primary care physician.

Cancer Health: the Magnitude of the Problem

  • The two top sites for cancer incidences in El Paso were prostate cancer among men (140.1 per 100,000) and breast cancer among women (97.3 per 100,000).Across cancer types, the incidence rate was highest among White, non-Hispanic men (552.3 per 100,000) and the lowest among Black women (225.8 per 100,000).Mortality rates in El Paso was similar to those of the state of Texas with cancer of the lung and bronchus, prostate, and breast cancer account for the highest mortality rate for the citizens of El Paso.Mirroring the incidence pattern, the cancer mortality rate for all cancers is highest among White, non-Hispanic males and higher among men of all races/ethnicities compared to women.

Cancer System

  • Cancer care in El Paso is viewed as difficulty to access and expensive, particularly for lower income cancer survivors.According to participants, there are not enough cancer providers in the area and the cancer care environment is viewed as highly competitive. Perceptions of the Cancer Care System Six out of ten providers indicated that they believed El Paso provides high quality cancer care for its population and that cancer care services in El Paso are culturally competent. The vast majority of survivor/caregiver respondents rate their cancer care treatment as excellent or good, with mixed feelings regarding lesser quality of care for those patients who struggled to pay.The majority of cancer cases that are diagnosed in El Paso (94%) are also treated in El Paso. Regarding cancer support services, most participants identified the need for developing support for patients, improving mental health and end-of-life care as well as enhancing caregiver support.

Barriers to Cancer Care Services in El Paso

  • According to participants, barriers to cancer care include cost, knowledge about causes of cancer, cancer prevention and screening and the continuum of cancer treatment and survivorship.Additionally, they described the cancer care system in El Paso as fragmented and difficult to navigate.Providers cited barriers to delivering care as the lack of the patients’ knowledge of cancer, high demand for cancer care services and the challenges of obtaining and overseeing public funding.

Partners and Contributors


Partners in and contributors to this effort include the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, the Sierra-Providence Health Network, Las Palmas-Del Sol Medical Centers (HCA Healthcare), the American Cancer Society, the Cancer and Chronic Disease Consortium, Texas Oncology, P.A., William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, the United Way of El Paso, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, El Paso Affiliate, Hospice of El Paso, CIMA Hospice, University Medical Center, El Paso Children’s Hospital, Centro San Vicente, and the El Paso County Medical Society.

Funders of the 2015 Community Cancer Needs Assessment are the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, and the Sierra-Providence Health Network.

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