Independence Blue Cross (Independence) and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance (the Alliance) announced the launch of 45+ Reasons, a campaign to get more than 5,000 Black Philadelphians ages 45-75 screened for colorectal cancer to reduce the significantly higher incidence and mortality rates of Black Americans. The campaign supports the Cycles of Impact initiative launched by Independence and the Alliance in 2022.
The campaign is a flagship program of Philadelphia’s Accelerate Health Equity, a city-wide initiative to produce tangible improvement in health inequities, and ultimately achieve measurable, positive changes in health outcomes in Philadelphia. Colorectal cancer screening and treatment is a priority area for Accelerate Health Equity.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) lowered the minimum screening age from 50 to 45 in 2021. To ensure that the colorectal cancer prevention and screening messages reach those most at risk, the Alliance is launching a compelling new awareness campaign called 45+ Reasons. The campaign leverages authentic voices and stories to encourage Black individuals to seek information and screening options for colorectal cancer while breaking the stigma associated with the disease.
The campaign name, 45+ Reasons, highlights the new minimum screening age and invites people to identify their own personal reasons to get screened – from being able to watch a child grow up to achieving a lifelong career goal – and emphasizes the lifesaving nature of colorectal cancer screening. The community engagement, social media, and advertising campaign aims to instill much-needed trust in the healthcare system with fact-based support for colorectal cancer as a preventable cancer.
The support of Independence Blue Cross, which is funding the campaign and overall Cycles of Impact initiative, jump-started progress to address this urgent public health issue among the Black population. Recent American Cancer Society data show that Black Americans are 20% more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 35% more likely to die from the disease. Colorectal cancer is the second most deadly cancer in the U.S., and it is also one of the deadliest cancers in Philadelphia, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
“Independence is dedicated to advancing equitable access to healthcare for all. A key focus of our efforts is breaking down barriers to prevention, screening and care for communities who experience disparities in their health outcomes. One way we are addressing this is through this partnership with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance to reduce gaps in colorectal cancer screening rates among Black Philadelphians, who are disproportionately impacted by colorectal cancer,” said Gregory E. Deavens, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross.
“As the largest nonprofit organization solely committed to ending colorectal cancer, the Alliance is uniquely positioned to lead this bold health intervention,” said Michael Sapienza, CEO of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. “Through our innovative digital screening quiz and expert navigators, we helped more than 15,000 people across the nation access lifesaving preventive screening last year alone. We are so grateful to Independence Blue Cross for recognizing that access to quality care should not depend on your zip code.”
The Alliance, in conjunction with colleagues at Penn Medicine, Salix Pharmaceuticals* and hundreds of local community health, religious and Black-owned businesses and organizations, is providing information about colorectal cancer and screening options, including home stool screening tests and colonoscopies.
Colorectal cancer screening events are being held throughout Philadelphia communities, including at Vine Memorial Baptist Church, Omega Psi Phi Men’s Wellness Day, Independence Blue Cross Member Expos in October and November and Community Alliance for Development’s Wellness Day on October 28. The 45+ Reasons awareness campaign is launching with radio and digital and social media advertising, some of which will feature community members expressing their personal reasons for getting screened for colon cancer.
Penn Medicine experts are helping to advise the efforts based on their experience with making cancer screenings more accessible.
“Our community screening efforts during the pandemic targeted hard-to-reach communities with lack of access to healthcare who are also adversely impacted by colon cancer,” said Carmen E. Guerra, MD, vice chair of Diversity and Inclusion in the department of Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the associate director of Diversity and Outreach at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center. “We are pleased to bring our expertise to the 45+ Reasons pilot and to continue this important work in conjunction with the Alliance. Unlike most cancers, colorectal cancer has a 91% survival rate with treatment when caught early through preventive screenings.”
The Alliance is also working with Philadelphia medical centers, health systems and physician groups to help ensure that people who need colonoscopies receive access to prevention and care.
To learn more about 45+ Reasons or to take the screening quiz, visit https://45plusreasons.org/
For visuals from the 45+ Reasons advertising campaign: https://tinyurl.com/ye24ar9j.
*Salix, one of the largest specialty pharmaceutical companies in the world committed to the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases, is donating its prescription bowel preparation product to individuals who require a colonoscopy.