Unique Collaboration Promotes Colorectal Cancer Prevention among African Americans

April 7, 2021

Although he played the superhero, Black Panther, in the movies, Chadwick Boseman was also a superhero in real life. Diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2016, he continued to act in movies, visit and bestow gifts upon children with cancer, and extensively support cancer charities until his untimely death in 2020. Unfortunately, his death at age 43 is evidence of an alarming trend in onset of colon cancer prior to age 50 among African Americans.

African Americans have the highest rate of colorectal cancer of any racial/ethnic group in the United States. Compared to non-Hispanic whites, incidence is 24% higher among African American men and 19% higher among African American women. Although not fully understood, some reasons this disparity exists include: differences in access to early detection and screening, systemic racism which has led to mistrust of the healthcare system, and higher rates of co-morbidities among African Americans.

A new collaboration among several partners in Philadelphia aims to address this disparity. WURD Radio, the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Penn Medicine, Independence Blue Cross Foundation, and LabCorp have teamed up to distribute free FIT kits (stool-based tests which detect blood in the stool, an early sign of colorectal cancer) to WURD listeners. HCIF serves as the project manager and facilitator for this program. “Go to Know,” as the campaign is cleverly called, launches on March 30th with a roundtable event on WURD featuring physicians and a colon cancer survivor discussing the importance of screening. The program will continue through September.

WURD Radio is the only African American owned and operated talk radio station in Pennsylvania (and one of only 3 in the country). As a long-time advocate for the health of the African American community, WURD’s CEO, Sara Lomax-Reese (see story) approached Independence Blue Cross (IBC) in 2019 about conducting a colorectal cancer screening program. IBC then contacted the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and began building the program. The program was ready to launch when the pandemic hit in March 2020. The partners came back together in late 2020 with a commitment to launch in time for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (March 2021).

Effective screening can prevent most colorectal cancer or detect it early when it is still treatable. Through radio promotions, the program will urge listeners to get screened with a free FIT kit. The FIT kits are paid for by a collaboration between Independence Blue Cross and Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Listeners will contact the Colorectal Cancer Alliance who will determine appropriateness for a FIT kit. If an individual is deemed high-risk or receives a positive FIT test result, they will be referred directly for colonoscopy to Penn Medicine.

Tackling healthcare disparities requires unique and innovative solutions, such as “Go to Know.” We are grateful to the committed partners and collaborators who are working hard to prevent colorectal cancer and narrow disparities in all communities. For more information about the “Go to Know” program, please contact Cassidy Tarullo.

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