Targeted Cancer Prevention

Michele Webb, CTR Oncology Leave a Comment

Targeted Cancer Prevention

The National Cancer Institute defines cancer prevention as “action taken to decrease the chance of getting a disease or condition.” They further define decreasing risk factors, such as smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise. They also define increasing protective factors, such as regular physical activity, vaccination, staying at a healthy weight, and having a healthy diet.

Most of us are familiar with this definition. But what is “targeted” cancer prevention and why should we include this in our community outreach planning activities?

Targeted teaching, in this case cancer prevention, is all about setting the participants up for success. Rather than hoping for a certain topic to hit the mark, it provides a progressive framework to ensure lifestyle changes are reasonable, practical, and personal to the learner.

It is challenging to stay current today with all the noise and events around us. By providing the participant at your event to join in on a well-planned, targeted conversation about a topic that is meaningful to them, the probability of that individual making an actual change in their life is much higher. When you add in the complexities of race, ethnicity, financial, or geographic differences it becomes even more important to focus the conversation on one, no more than three, practical and easy-to-implement changes.

Motivation to change one’s life happens when the desire to want to achieve something greater drives the individual to make a change, no matter how difficult. Some common factors for lifestyle change are:

  • Feelings of emotional discomfort or distress,
  • Goals to achieve,
  • Despair when hitting rock bottom,
  • Tired of a repetitive or unfulfilling routine, or
  • Searching for meaning and happiness in life.

Reverse psychology is known as a tactic that involves advocating for a behavior that is different than the desired outcome. The idea is that if your cancer prevention event pushes too far to the opposite of what the participant really wants, that they will actually choose to ignore what you are teaching them and engage, perhaps even more, in the behavior you actually want them to change. This is a natural human response and some may not even be aware that you are using reverse psychology to get them to, at some point, engage in what you are teaching them.  

For example, if you are teaching about the risks of prostate or gastrointestinal cancers associated with over-consumption of processed foods or breakfast meats, such as bacon, telling the participant to simply cut these foods from their diet may not get the desired result. Reasons for not adopting the change may vary, but the more the learning firmly states “no bacon” should be consumed, the more likely the participant will stubbornly hang on to enjoying a big plate of greasy, fried, bacon every morning.    

So, let’s take a different approach. What if, instead of telling participants to eliminate bacon from their diet, your event uses reverse psychology, appeals to the participant’s desire to have a happier and healthier life, and you educate them on the various types of bacon and how it might be prepared in various healthy ways, less frequently? And, what if the event is set in a fun venue, a grocery store, local butcher shop, or community center, in the heart of where your participants live and shop?

Remember, less than 1% of your audience will want to sit through a boring three-hour lecture on the etiology of prostate cancer and the various forms of treatment and then be told to give up their bacon.

Partner with a local supporter of cancer prevention to host the venue, celebrity, church or community center. Hold the event in the heart of the community you are trying to help. For example, don’t hold an event designed for inner city families on the opposite side of town in a posh facility that does not mirror their lifestyle and where they are not comfortable.

Include plenty of demonstration products, such as cast iron skillets, gas grills, regular fry pans, an air fryer, etc. Bring in different types of bacon, from chitlins to thick, or smoked bacon, turkey bacon or even plant-based products. Then, in a very short presentation where you talk about how bacon or processed meats increase the risk of prostate cancer, demo the various cooking methods to illustrate the cooking methods and associated risks. Give practical solutions or alternatives, perhaps in the forms of recipes or how to stretch out a single serving of bacon into multiple servings over the course of a week to reduce cost without sacrificing flavor. Share recipes or give a handout on how to air fry bacon versus cast-iron frying. Or, perhaps a handout that actually compares the nutritional value of each type of bacon you are demonstrating. Have samples ready to go and experts on hand to answer questions as they come up. Keep answers short, to the point, and practical. Ask a lot of audience questions and wait for their answers. Above all, make it fun and memorable!

After the event, provide some sort of material that drives the participant back to your organization’s website where they can find more of the same information about bacon and other practical topics. Make sure they know who, and how, to reach out to someone if they have questions or desire a one-on-one counseling session with your oncology dietitian.  

It really is as simple as this. Pick a very basic topic that is meaningful to the community then build it out to a one-hour program that is packed with information tidbits, lots of laughter and real-world examples. Give it a catchy title. Here’s one idea, “Prostate Cancer and You Keep the Bacon If…” You will be guaranteed success if your program is “outside the box” and addresses the participants actual lifestyle and habits.

When you have planned your targeted community outreach, don’t forget to come back and share your results in the blog comments. 

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