The Erie St. Clair Regional Cancer Program has designed a unique and innovative workplace health information/education and cancer screening referral program called Your Health Matters (YHM).

To create something more than just another education/awareness-raising program, we included a personalized intervention strategy designed to motivate employee interest and investment in prevention and screening behaviours. The program includes facilitated in-person sessions in the workplace or an e-learning module, plus bilingual materials that were developed in consultation with partners such as Cancer Care Ontario, provincial cancer agencies in other provinces, Public Health Units and the Canadian Cancer Society.

A key component of the program is the personalized risk tracking card. This tool personalizes the individual’s cancer risks associated with their lifestyle choices, focusing their attention on behaviour change and, hopefully, motivating that change. The reverse side of the card details screening recommendations. Another important goal of the program is to link participants with existing workplace and community resources and support programs to assist them in adopting and continuing healthy behaviours.

Results from a pilot study among employees at Windsor Regional Hospital indicated that immediately following the information session, 95% of participants indicated an intention to follow up with a healthcare provider regarding their personal risk factors for cancer and screening recommendations. At 12 months,
45% indicated that they had indeed done so. As well, 73% agreed or strongly agreed that they had used the health information provided by YHM to make positive health changes. Interestingly, 40% of participants indicated they would not have received this health information elsewhere, and this pilot group was from an Ontario healthcare facility.

The following are the results for specific cancer screening:

  • Breast cancer: 35% learned that they were due for a mammogram; of these, 78% had the test done within 12 months.
  • Cervical cancer: 59% learned they were due for a Pap test; of these, 70% had the test done within 12 months.
  • Colon cancer: 70% learned they were due for a fecal occult blood test; of these, 41.2% had the test done within 12 months. In addition, 21% learned they were due for a colonoscopy; of these, 42.1% had the test done within 12 months.

Of course, affecting change in lifestyle behaviours is a much more challenging goal. At the original pilot site, 12-month matched outcome data were used to determine the proportion of participants reporting improvements in risk level(s) or categories: obesity/body mass index, diet, alcohol use, smoking and physical activity. As this program was implemented and expanded, iterative improvements were made in an attempt to help support healthy behaviour changes. Strategic alignment of workplace follow-up support programs was co-ordinated with YHM implementation (for example, using pedometers as incentives, launching a Walk Across Canada campaign and offering a smoking cessation program).

Thanks to funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the pilot program expanded to four national companies in four sectors: energy, manufacturing (automotive), public municipal employers and healthcare. The program is now in 19 more workplaces.

YHM is a program that can be implemented in workplaces throughout the country, utilizing occupational health nurses, HR personnel, health educators, public or regional health personnel or e-learning at minimal cost. The cost varies depending on selection of optional components, such as the research piece and the e-learning component, and the degree of sophistication desired, but it is approximately $5 per employee.

Elizabeth Dulmage is a manager at the Erie St. Clair Regional Cancer Program

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Back to more coverage from the 2011 Cancer Care Summit, hosted by Working Well.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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