When Sarah Carter set out last winter to survey Cumberland County residents on why they do not participate in cancer screening programs, she made an interesting discovery: People didn’t want to talk about why they don’t get screened.
One of two students canvassing the County, Sarah did a pretty good job getting residents to open up.
“Surveys aren’t very popular,” admits Sarah, a graduate of the NSCC Cumberland Campus Business Administration program. “But being in a small community, you have an advantage in that it’s harder for someone to say no when they know you. We made calls. We went to visit every company we could think of. We’d go during lunch hours because we knew that if we put a face to it, people would be more likely to participate.”
In total, 896 people participated in the survey, a joint undertaking between NSCC Cumberland Campus and the Cumberland Health Authority. The goal was 500.
Though the study was a class project for Sarah, it wasn’t just grades that motivated her to get involved in this initiative.
“All of us have been touched by cancer, whether it’s family or friends. I knew screening rates in the region were low and this study brought out the passion in me to find out why.”
Erin Beaton, who initiated the survey while serving as community health project co-ordinator with the Authority, says Sarah and her classmate, Josh Best, played a key role in the success of this undertaking.
“Thanks to their Business Administration training, they had great ideas and a strong understanding of how to reach people, particularly in their age group. They took ownership over the recruitment plan and really brought it to life.”
They survey revealed that a lack of information was the dominant barrier to screening. Thirty-two per cent of respondents indicated that didn't know what they should be screened for, and 27 per cent said they didn’t participate because they didn't know where to go to get screened. Another 25 per cent said screening makes them worry, so they don’t participate.
The Health Authority is reviewing the survey data and will work with the District Cancer Care Committee to develop a health promotion plan to increase screening rates. As for Sarah, it’s made her more aware of how screening can make a difference.
“I think everyone involved realized how important it is to be more vocal about this. When you see how early detection saves lives, it inspires you to convince friends and family to get screened.”