Part of the Solution
By Bridget Goldschmidt
Grocers can play a big part in colon cancer awareness.
There's a health emergency in the United States that many people aren't even aware of, but that has taken a deadly toll on millions.
"Colorectal cancer (CRC), or colon cancer, is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in America," notes Andrew Spiegel, CEO of the Washington-based Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA). "This disease kills more people than breast, prostate, ovarian, kidney, pancreatic, cervical and any other form of cancer, with the exception of smoking-related lung cancer. One hundred-fifty thousand Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year, and 50,000 die annually. One in 19 Americans will develop CRC in their lifetime. That's someone being diagnosed every four minutes, with someone dying every nine minutes."
Harrowing as those statistics are, there is cause for hope. "This disease is almost entirely preventable through screening," says Spiegel. "It is the most preventable major cancer, which makes its impact so frustrating."
That's where grocers, other retailers and consumer packaged goods companies, with their high profiles and wide reach, can play a major role.
"Retailers and product manufacturers have supported many other causes for decades which have less of an impact on Americans than CRC," observes Spiegel. "Just like people have avoided talking about colorectal cancer, which has turned out to be a very deadly decision, retailers have been hesitant to talk about a disease that affects a part of the body that is less than 'sexy.' This decision to ignore a disease, which affects almost every family in some way, promulgates the unwillingness of Americans to openly discuss with their family, friends and doctors the importance of screening for CRC."
To the contrary, Spiegel continues: "If people saw retailers willing to discuss the importance of screening for this disease, they would be more comfortable having an open dialogue and hopefully decide to get screened. This disease costs our country more than $16 billion to treat and accounts for incredible lost productivity in the workplace. We have a saying at the CCA: 'Don't be embarrassed to death.' It's time for America's retailers to boldly embrace this preventable, yet very deadly, disease."
A good example of how the CPG industry is stepping up to raise awareness of CRC is the CCA's partnership with Dulcolax, a laxative brand made by Ridgefield, Conn.-based Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc., during March, which is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
"The CCA's logo and website are on millions of boxes of Dulcolax, and we are receiving a portion of the proceeds of the sales, up to a certain limit," says Spiegel. "The company is the title sponsor of our popular 5K walk program, the 'Undy5000,'" during which participants are encouraged to race in their skivvies.
For March and beyond, Dulcolax's CRC awareness campaign will encompass such components as helping to fund screenings for those who can't afford them, print media, sampling, event marketing and retailer program support. The brand has also enlisted the public relations help of fashion designer and colon cancer survivor Carmen Marc Valvo.
To their credit, he adds, many leading retailers "are finally embracing this cause, and Dulcolax has been extremely generous in linking our cause with major chains such as Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Safeway, Kroger, Costco, Sam's Club and others. Each retailer will be sending our message to their customers about the importance of screening for CRC and driving people to our website for more information."
The benefits to retailers and product manufacturers of running such awareness programs are many, according to Spiegel. "First, their employees will be educated about the importance of learning about CRC and discussing screening for the disease with their doctors," he says. "This will result in many lives being saved and prevent lost productivity in the workplace. Second, the public will appreciate the information about a disease about which they know very little."
Further, companies will benefit from separating themselves from the "same old disease" campaigns, which, while popular, have not proved to sell more products or save lives, says Spiegel. In addition, since the screening rates of these other diseases haven't risen in many years, he advises manufacturers and retailers "to separate themselves from getting lost in sea of these popular diseases. The public will truly appreciate companies' taking the bold step of supporting a disease which affects so many Americans."
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