Objectives: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a preventable cancer, yet it is the third most common and second deadliest in the United States. Screening finds the disease at an early stage and may prevent it altogether through the detection and removal of precancerous polyps. Nationally, only 65% of people 50 years and older have had some form of CRC screening. In Illinois, only 60% have been screened, and rates are worse for African Americans. Partnerships between churches and universities have emerged as a promising approach for addressing public health inequities. EPICS is a community outreach and screening program.
Methods: EPICS is a collaborative with Georgia Regents University, the National Black Leadership Initiative On Cancer-Chicago, Chicago State University (CSU), University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center (UCCCC), and Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC). The study targeted African Americans aged 50 to 74 years without a history of ulcerative colitis and diverticulitis, and who were not involved in another CRC program. The study was conducted at TUCC. Participants attended 3 1-hour sessions led by trained facilitators covering nutrition, exercise, and the importance of early screening. Participants who completed 3 sessions received free fecal occult blood test (FOBT) screening kits and evaluation provided by UCCCC.
Results: Sociodemographic variables included ethnicity, gender, age, education, and insurance. Participant (N = 32) characteristics included 100% African American, 69% female, average age 62.4 years, 50% with a college degree, 50% were married, 31% had Medicare, and 31% had private health insurance. Participants reported increased knowledge about common cancers, CRC, and CRC prevention. Twenty-three participants were eligible for a free FOBT kit. Eighteen participants returned their FOBTs, 2 participants opted to screen with their primary care physician, 1 participant was previously screened within the past year, 1 participant planned to screen within 6 months, and 1 participant was lost to follow-up.
Conclusion: This church-academic partnership yielded a 78% FOBT return rate, about 25% higher than overall adherence rates in larger studies. Participants reported that receiving CRC education and screening at a trusted location, interacting with a known physician/professor, not having to travel outside of their normal routine, and incentives improved return rates. Continued research and tailored interventions are needed to further examine methods to reduce CRC in disparate populations.