Pilot project uses humor, personal stories to promote colorectal cancer screenings

By Erin Long | Emory Report | Aug. 5, 2014

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This poster encouraging screenings for colorectal cancer uses humor to raise awareness of the issue.

Colorectal cancer is not a topic most people want to talk about, but when a recent survey of Campus Services employees revealed that 47 percent had never received a colorectal cancer screening, a pilot program soon emerged. Led by Healthy Emory, the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP), the Rollins School of Public Health and the Winship Cancer Institute, a health education campaign designed specifically for Campus Services employees was launched earlier this summer.

"The pilot project has two main goals," says Michael Staufacker, director of health management. "To increase the overall awareness of colorectal cancer and to increase the number of Campus Services employees who get screened."

The extensive campaign has involved printed materials such as posters and flyers, customized emails, news articles, large group presentations and one-on-one personal follow-ups. To get people to pay attention, the team decided to use humor.

"We thought we'd take a different approach," explains Staufacker. "Humor seemed like a good option for getting our message across in a quick and informative, but also lighthearted way. Even though the topic of colorectal cancer is a serious one, we thought we could still use humor to raise awareness and get people engaged in their health."

The team created a series of four short videos to correspond with the educational messages in the other communications. The first animated video depicts a water cooler conversation about getting a colorectal cancer screening. The video gets plenty of laughs, but it also delivers some important facts: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer death and people need to get screened starting at age 50.

Making it personal

To further emphasize the importance of the message, several large group presentations led by staff from the Winship Cancer Institute are being held. At one of the presentations, Campus Services employee Ashley Cobette shared a personal story about her grandfather. He had never had a screening and one day, noticed abnormal exhaustion and blood in his stool. He was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Ashley's grandfather made her father promise to get tested early and he took his advice. Ashley's father's first colonoscopy resulted in the removal of multiple polyps, which doctors say could have turned into cancer.

"Colorectal cancer screening is just one of those things you need to do," says Cobette. "It will sit there for years; my grandfather had no idea. It's better to know than to hope it doesn't happen."

Whether it's humor, a personal story or a poster on the wall, Staufacker hopes the campaign will drive home the important message of paying attention to key preventive tests. "We hope to see a significant increase in the number of CRC screenings from Campus Services employees," he says.

A CRC screening is recommended for men and women age 50 or over (45 or over, if African-American). For those on an Emory medical plan, preventive and diagnostic colonoscopies are covered at 100 percent with no deductible or copay, regardless of age (EPN or in-network doctors only). For questions about Emory benefits, call 404-727-7613 or visit www.hr.emory.edu/benefits. To learn more about colon cancer, visit www.bit.ly/EmoryColon.