MCC 2009 Spirit of Collaboration Award Winner Keep Your Rear in the Clear: The Detroit Colossal Colon Educational Event
About the Initiative The Colorectal Cancer Awareness Network (CRAN) of Southeastern Michigan is a community network consisting of members from local hospitals, health departments, insurance providers, and other individuals with a vested interest in colorectal cancer.
The fitting opportunity arose to bring the Colossal Colon® or “CoCo” to metro Detroit. CoCo, a project of The Colon Club (www.colossalcolon.com), is a 40-foot long; four-foot tall replica of the human colon designed to educate the public, raise awareness, and diminish the stigma associated with colon cancer and other colorectal diseases. CRAN brought CoCo to the Detroit Science Center for one week in March 2009 during National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Impetus for the Collaboration Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States among men and women, and it is estimated it will newly affect over 5,000 Michigan residents this year (American Cancer Society, 2009). Despite a decline in incidence and mortality rates in recent years, there is still much progress to be made in public awareness and knowledge around colorectal health.
Considering rising unemployment, loss of health insurance, and rise of obesity in the metro Detroit area, CRAN called for a local and innovative approach to colorectal health promotion that provided not only messages about prevention, but also information about free or low cost screenings. The goal was to “think outside the box” of delivering traditional community health messages through print materials or media messages alone.
Results Educational activities were developed to enhance the visual messages provided by Coco, particularly for youth. Nutritional messages were provided through an age-tailored card game and food models from the local university students. A Resource Guidebook was created specifically for this exhibit and included resources for colorectal screening and prevention along with activities for youth. Visitors could also view a DVD created by teh American Cancer Society explaining the various screening methods for colorectal cancer.
Over 3,000 community members visited Coco during the one-week exhibit, and the feedback from CRAN members, visitors, volunteers, and Detroit Science Center staff was overwhelmingly positive. Many visitors spoke about the personal impact of the event, including needing to talk to their doctors about getting screened, having family health history discussions, or increasing their fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity levels.
Lessons Learned Well planned collaboration leveraging of resources, organized volunteer recruitment, and utilization along with defined leadership roles were key to the success of this program. This model is not specific to colorectal cancer and could be easily replicated in other community-based health arenas. In a time when budgets, staff, and resources are being cut, public health practitioners' use of innovative programs, collaboration in planning and resource use, along with volunteerism will be vital for delivering effective community health events.
"Keep Your Rear in the Clear: The Detroit Colossal Colon Educational Event” received the Michigan Cancer Consortium’s 2009 Spirit of Collaboration Award. The annual award is presented to member organizations that have done outstanding collaborative work to significantly move comprehensive cancer control activities forward in Michigan.