Increasing Colon Cancer Screening Rates

07 Aug 2013
Humboldt and Del Norte counties have two of the highest rates of invasive colon cancer in the state of California. The AF4Q initiative in Humboldt County, led by the California Center for Rural Policy, is working to improve care through community collaboration, patient education, and increasing screening rates. The Alliance is helping reduce the rates of colon cancer in the communities.
A consumer education campaign, Get Screened Humboldt, focused on educating consumers about colon cancer screenings and encouraging providers to use the immunological fecal occult blood test (iFOBT), has resulted in increased screening rates, especially among the HMO population in Humboldt County. In 2012, 69 percent of the eligible HMO population had received a colon cancer screening, up from 57 percent in 2010.
Consumers directly influenced the development of the campaign outreach materials through two consumer focus groups. A committee of consumers scripted patient-friendly language about colon cancer screening that was subsequently used in two medical assistant trainings (EIM and UIHS). A 30-second television commercial and 15-second radio spot about the campaign and colon cancer screening aired with heavy volume over a three-month period.  Several patients in the area called the office after seeing the commercial and were thankful to have received the information about a low-cost alternative to colonoscopy. At least two of these patients said they had previously declined a colonoscopy because it was cost prohibitive.
  "The consumer community campaign was important, but equally important was the outreach and education to providers,” said Jessica Osborne-Stafsnes, project manager of patient engagement at AF4Q Humboldt. “I feel that we impacted screening rates because we took a two-pronged approach to the issue: 1) reaching out directly to consumers and 2) supporting medical providers in their understanding and use of iFOBT to meet increased demand.” 
“Another critical element of our success was our partnership with Eureka Internal Medicine, who was designated as a pilot site for the IHI, HHS, and IDEO "Gut Check" campaign. This gave us access to tools such as provider conversation cards and patient decision support packets that were immensely helpful."