Don’t Want to Talk About It: Accessing Cancer Screening in Tower Hamlets

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Addressing low take-up of cancer screening in Tower Hamlets
Commissioned by Tower Hamlets Public Health, this participatory research project explores community perspectives on cancer screening among Tower Hamlets communities. The project builds on social marketing campaigns and other interventions to tackle low levels of take up of screening for bowel, cervical and breast cancer in the borough. Understanding community barriers and solutions is crucial in Tower Hamlets where cancer is the leading case of premature death.
More than thirty volunteers took part in Participatory Appraisal (PA) training, and they used this approach to access more than 400 people’s views in community settings throughout the borough from October 2012 to March 2013.
Community solutions
The project identified a set of short and long-term solutions to removing the barriers to cancer screening services. These include:
  1. Actions to motivate and engage people to take up screening, overcome fear and embarrassment,
    and to dispel cultural myths and misinformation about cancer:
    • Train local people to be ‘community hubs’ of accurate information
    • Promote leadership and awareness-raising by community leaders
    • Enable more inter-generational support and encouragement.
  2. Actions to build good relationships between eligible residents and health professionals:
    • Promote training for health professionals in effective interpersonal / behavioural
      skills.
    • Ensure interpretation services are known to those who need them.
    • Build on the success of having GP cancer champions.
  3. Actions to improve awareness of cancer screening (the most cited barrier across all screening
    programmes) including language and literacy issues.
    • Provide picture instructions with the bowel screening kits
    • Place more information in East End Life, community radio and other local publications, especially those in minority languages
    • Work with community and voluntary sector projects to provide more targeted
      information locally where people are to be found on a regular basis and, especially
      for older men and women, in different languages (lunch clubs, social clubs, hostels, libraries, cafes, bingo, etc).
The full report can be downloaded for free here.