Facing Cancer Together and Transforming Health Consumer Surveys, for WITF
In 2011, WITF engaged the Center to measure the Central Pennsylvania community’s needs and interests regarding cancer information, to help develop a new multimedia public health campaign, called Facing Cancer Together, and to evaluate the campaign’s impact. This ongoing community education partnership of WellSpan Health, Pinnacle Health, Lancaster General Health, and WITF brings information about cancer to the public through media programs and an interactive website, and creates a community forum to help connect those whose lives are touched by cancer.
The Center’s research has been pivotal in helping WITF develop the campaign’s message. In 2011, the Center conducted a baseline telephone survey of 611 residents of Central Pennslyvania. The survey was designed to provide information about community members’ health status and behaviors, as well as their knowledge of and attitudes about cancer, in order to discover what messages and information would be most important for the campaign.
Our analysis examined the baseline data in several ways, including by demographics such as age, gender, educational level, and health insurance status. Several substantive findings were identified: first, there is little evidence that residents view a cancer diagnosis as a death sentence; second, residents are only moderately well informed about cancer risks, but receptive to changing their behaviors to minimize such risks; third, those most at risk for cancer are least likely to engage in preventative behaviors, and that the uninsured know less about cancer risks than those with health insurance; and finally, a sizeable minority of adults would likely seek treatment outside their local area if they were diagnosed with cancer.
Based on these findings, the Center recommended that the campaign encourage lifestyle change by focusing on those most at risk. We also found that increasing awareness about the quality and availablity of cancer care in Central Pennsylvania was an achievable project goal. Accordingly, the partners decided to focus on providing practical information about cancer prevention, cancer treatment options, and local resources for patients and caregivers.
To evaluate FCT, the Center conducted two follow-up surveys in 2012: A telephone survey of 613 Central Pennsylvanians, and a web survey of 2,264 WITF members. These surveys showed that FCT is having a considerable positive impact in Central Pennsylvania, especially among WITF members, who were exposed to the most content via radio and television programming. For both groups, knowledge about cancer risks, prevention behaviors, local cancer resources, and cancer treatment increased.
This success inspired the partners to expand the project and develop a second campaign called Transforming Health, designed to educate consumers about the importance of positive health behaviors, especially in light of the rapidly changing healthcare system in the U.S. To help guide the development of content for the campaign, the Center conducted two surveys in fall 2012: A telephone survey of 500 Central Pennsylvanians, and a web survey of 536 WITF members. Each survey focused on two key questions—first, what do consumers know about the forthcoming national changes in health care delivery and payment, and second, what is an individual’s role in the management of their own health?
Significant findings from these surveys included that 65% of residents believe that it is possible for state policymakers to pass laws that will improve health, that there is significant misinformation about the Affordable Care Act, and that many central Pennsylvanians have difficulty engaging in positive health behaviors. Using these results, WITF created a new website and other programming focused on providing information about the forthcoming changes in healthcare policies, encouraging healthy behaviors, and exploring innovations and advances in healthcare. Follow-up surveys to evaluate Transforming Health and guide future programming and content are planned for later in 2013.