Reviewing my involvement in the R2R mentorship program, I can say with great certainty that my skill set, not only in cancer prevention and control, but in public health has expanded considerably. Implementing a project from start to finish, from research to reality, has been a valuable learning experience. I have learned about evidenced based interventions, logic models, HEDIS measures, partnership building and much more. I have experienced both setbacks and successes.
One thing that stands out to me specifically though, is learning about evidenced based interventions (EBI). EBI, along with some other current concepts and resources didn’t exist when I was in college for my degrees twelve years ago. In fact – EBI wasn’t a term that we used. This struck me one day when I was doing a project background research. I was reviewing an old college textbook (from 1997) and found there was no specific reference to EBI in the index or table of contents.
There was focus on interventions, and wording that pointed in the direction of developing evidenced based interventions. Here is what it says about selecting appropriate intervention activities:
What types of interventions activities are known to be effective (i.e., have been successfully used in previous programs) in dealing with the program focus?
By networking with other health educators and by reviewing the literature, planners can find out what interventions have been effective with certain target populations or in dealing with specific health problems.
Since this was written, many public health interventions have been conducted and the results published. This allows other health educators to conduct research and find interventions that might work for them. Wow. Public health is evolving! In addition to research articles, there are many more resources and information available. With the World Wide Web, we have access to webinars, online classes, toolkits, etc.
One of these resources is The Guide to Community Preventive Services (aka The Community Guide). The Guide to Community Preventive Services is a free resource that helps you choose programs and policies to improve health and prevent disease in your community. The Community Guide is a resource for evidence-based recommendations and findings about what works to improve public health. The Community Guide is a credible resource with multiple uses because it is based on a scientific systematic review process and answers critical questions.
It was from the Community Guide that I chose the intervention for this project, client reminders. In a nutshell, my project focused on working with a Michigan health plan, in conjunction with the Michigan Cancer Consortium Challenge (http://www.michigancancer.org/policy_systems_environchange.cfm) to implement colorectal cancer client reminders within their employee population. Working with the health plan, the client reminders were mailed in July 2012. The 3-month data indicates that there was just over a 4% increase in screening rates. The 6 month data will be available in January and I am very excited to see the numbers!
Being involved in the R2R program has been very beneficial not only for experience of completing the project, but also for its applicability to my daily duties and tasks as a public education coordinator. The best part is that I get to continue this work with other health plans. I look forward to working with other Michigan health plans to implement client reminders not only for colorectal cancer screening, but also for cervical cancer screening.