National Colon Cancer Awareness Month: Our Job in Communicating Health Disparities with Multicultural Communities
In casual conversation regarding a cancer awareness campaign with a non-ethnic friend a few years ago, she boldly mentioned: “I’ve never known anyone that has had cancer.” Although many thoughts rushed into my mind, the only words that could come out were, “Wow, really?” I wondered how that could possibly be. I wondered if she was mistaken and had forgotten about a brother-in-law, a great aunt, a fourth cousin – someone. And it wasn’t because I didn’t want it to be true – it was because I’d never spoken to anyone that had not been affected by cancer.
At the age of 32, my mom lost her battle to colon cancer. This Women’s History and National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, I honor her life and legacy. I press forward on my wildest dreams as I channel the strength of my grandmother, who has sacrificed for my family. In doing so, I recognize how critical our roles in marketing communications are, to reach and respect multicultural communities as we are disproportionately affected by most forms of cancer and other health disparities.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) remains the third most common cause of malignancy-related death in men and women in the United States. According to the US National Library of Medicine, NIH, “among all racial and ethnic groups, African American men and women continue to have the highest rate of death and shortest survival for CRC.” (2016) Furthermore, according to the American Cancer Society, “African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial/ethnic group in the US for most cancers.” (2016-2018) The causes of these inequalities are complex and reflect social and economic disparities more than biological differences.
Additionally, “cancer is the leading cause of death among Hispanics, accounting for 22% of deaths” according to the American Cancer Society (2016). A study found that fear, cost, and lack of awareness are common barriers to CRC screenings for Hispanics. More specific barriers applicable to the Hispanic population include low literacy/educational levels and lack of provider recommendations. (US National Library of Medicine, NIH)
The stark reality of this disparity drives me as a PR practitioner. When working with brands that do or don’t have a direct connection to health, we must always account for this factor as it has a cascading effect across the lives of most multicultural consumers, despite particular backgrounds.
Here at FCG, we work with brands to ensure that insights like this don’t take a backseat or go unmentioned when we need them. For example, AT&T’s #InspiredMobility is a digital conversation about how people are using mobile technology to connect with their faith or inspiration. For families affected by health issues like cancer, mobile technology can help them keep in touch in between doctor visits, do online research, surf inspirational blogs or join online support communities.
This and other related worked we touch, demonstrate how important it is to reach ethnic audiences through the media they consume and in spaces where they can receive health information in a relevant and authentic way.
To learn more about CRC prevention and screening, please visit the Colon Cancer Alliance website. To learn more about cancer prevention and control for all types, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
FCG is always proud to recognize our people – some of the best marketing communicators in the biz. In honor of National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, we pay tribute to some of our loved ones that have fought battles with different types of cancer – acknowledging that these experiences drive our passions in the important work we do every day in multicultural marketing.
Brienna LaCoste is an account executive at FCG.