Be Cancer SAFE - by Alison Thorp
Friday 31st August 2018
Hi I’m Alison Thorp, Be Cancer SAFE Coordinator.
I support Be Cancer SAFE teams across South Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and North Derbyshire but I also manage a fabulous team of Be Cancer SAFE Project Workers who engage communities across Rotherham and Barnsley - we are based at the charity Voluntary Action Rotherham.
If Be Cancer SAFE isn’t on your radar let me put you in the picture, inspire you to join our social movement and be part of something special, which has the potential to be life changing!
Be Cancer SAFE is a social movement in cancer awareness, coordinated by South Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and North Derbyshire Cancer Alliance and delivered by voluntary sector and health organisations across the region. The idea of the movement is taking a different approach to cancer awareness and prevention, utilising the knowledge and experience of organisations that aren’t necessarily NHS focussed – these organisations have a wealth of knowledge and contacts in their local communities.
The organisations delivering activities include: Voluntary Action Rotherham in Rotherham and Barnsley; Aurora Wellbeing Centres in Bassetlaw; Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust in Doncaster; Sheffield Local Authority in Sheffield and Derbyshire Voluntary Action in North Derbyshire and Hardwick.
Each organisation has project workers who are going out and about in their communities, engaging with people and signing up Cancer Champions who will spread cancer awareness and prevention messages to their friends, family and colleagues.
Project workers have adopted a variety of dynamic approaches to both drive the social movement and engage hard to reach groups - e.g. men, older people, people with learning disabilities, ethnic minorities - who for a whole host of reasons, don’t take up screening or visit their GP with concerns and sadly get diagnosed later as an emergency when treatment is less likely to be successful.
Through Be Cancer SAFE we hope to better understand the reasons some people aren’t engaging with health services and counter some of the myths, fears and barriers with positive messages which might trigger behaviour change – an appointment booked, a bowel screening kit returned, self-checking for the first time, asking for some support etc.
Be Cancer SAFE is very much about empowering individuals to take control of their own health and about empowering communities to rally behind and champion key messages as well as finding local solutions. Ultimately, if we’re able to get more people completing their screening or talking to their GP they can pick things up sooner, be diagnosed earlier and start treatment more quickly when it’s most effective and there is a much higher chance of survival.
The backbone of the movement and indeed the engagement of hard to reach communities is the army of Cancer Champions who informally pledge to pass on the key Be Cancer SAFE messages to friends, family, colleagues and people in their communities. They may start or join a conversation about cancer and share their positive experience of screening, of visiting the GP or in the case of cancer survivors, share their story and positive outcome. As well as passing on simple awareness messages and offering encouragement, some cancer champions may support others to take up the opportunity to be screened by offering a lift or their company. Being a champion is not about being an expert; it’s about talking and not judging, planting seeds and supporting people to make informed decisions about their own health.
To date Project Workers have recruited more than 5,000 Cancer Champions across South Yorkshire, Bassetlaw and North Derbyshire with numbers growing every day. Indeed, the response has been tremendous; businesses, voluntary and community sector organisations, public sector organisations, local communities and individuals alike have embraced Be Cancer SAFE and are keen to be involved and to sign up as champions. For instance; Tesco have given us access to their staff and customers in stores across our region and market traders at Chesterfield market proved incredibly creative and supportive by gaining the support and acceptance of stall holders and shoppers alike. In Doncaster shoppers and businesses at the Frenchgate shopping centre embraced information about cervical cancer, students have been signed up in Bassetlaw and Sheffield’s Cancer Information HUB in the Moor Market recently won an award in recognition of its work bringing cancer messages directly to communities.
To get more of a flavour of the diversity and the quality of the Be Cancer SAFE work across the region I’d recommend looking up and following your local Be Cancer SAFE team via their social media platforms. Each provider has information on their website or indeed a dedicated website in Derby Voluntary Action’s case and a number of providers have developed local Be Cancer SAFE Twitter and Facebook pages - just type in Be Cancer SAFE on social media and they should pop up. Please follow, like, retweet, use #becancersafe and do what you can to help us raise the profile of the work and reach more people with these important messages and please sign up as a Cancer Champion, we’d love to have your support!
Bye for now
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