Life Is Precious
‘Life is Precious’ is a cancer health improvement project – the project used a creative arts approach to engage local people from minority ethnic communities in a dialogue around cancer.
The project set out to:
Increase awareness of cancer signs and symptoms and the importance of the three national screening programmes for cervical, breast and bowel cancer
Involve minority ethnic communities in the development of images to inform the content and design of cancer awareness resources
Recruit Community Health Champions to spread the cancer awareness messages in their communities beyond the duration of the project.
A Community engagement approach was used to shape the project and recruit participants within the screening age range.
Those who took part were men and women from the Indian, Pakistani and Yemeni communities in the Dudley borough.
The cancer awareness arts in health workshops took place over 5 weeks and each group chose the art form for their workshops.
The project had five phases:
Phase 1: Community Engagement and Recruitment of Participants
- Project leads undertook extensive development work to shape the project to meet the needs, interests and logistical requirements of the participating group
Phase 2: Creative Participatory Arts Process
- Creative arts workshops set up to engage community members and introduce participants to new arts techniques and activities
- Graphic designers helped turn ideas and art work generated through the workshops into designs for cancer awareness resources
- Building relationships with the groups and gradually introducing the role of the Community Health Champion
- The group identified ideas for sharing the messages within their communities
Phase 3: Identifying the Outcomes
- Quantitative and qualitative evaluation included in each stage of project delivery, using the Cancer Awareness Measure (CAM) Survey and Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (SWEMWBS)
- A variety of tools and techniques were also used to capture qualitative data including artists and participants’ reflections on their experiences of being involved in the project
Phase 4: Sharing and Celebrating
- A celebration event was held to share and celebrate the hard work and achievements of the participants
- It enabled people from the different community groups to meet, share their art work and the cancer resources
- We introduced the newly recruited Community Health Champions
- The art work and key cancer awareness messages were also showcased at Dudley ‘Art Space.’
Phase 5: Building a Legacy
- Following the workshop sessions, consultation was carried out with all of the interested groups to decide how they wanted to develop the Community Health Champion role
- Additional training and resources were developed to support their work
- The resources, documentation book and artwork produced through the project are used by the community health champions to help initiate conversations about the project and share cancer awareness key messages.
- The Community Health Champions are provided with ongoing training, resources and support to enable them to carry out their role and plan and develop ideas for raising awareness in their communities.
- Some of the Community Health Champions have successfully applied for and received small grants to support their work.
Who is Involved?
The success of this partnership project is due to the collaboration, motivation, enthusiasm and commitment of every one of the partners involved:
Dudley Asian Women’s Network
Halesowen Asian Elderly Association
Halesowen Yemeni Community Association
Talluq Ladies Group
Women’s Awareness Association
Dudley Public Health Community Health Improvement Team
Walsall Council Creative Development Team
Commissioned Artists who worked with the groups
Dudley Council Interpreting and Translation Service
Primary Care Staff
A multi-agency reference group
PRAXIS arts network
Photographs by Ming de Nasty
Design work by Blue and White Creative
Life is Precious – Outcomes
6 different community groups were engaged in the cancer arts and health project,
55 arts workshops were held,
106 people took part and
54 Community Health Champions were recruited.
Quantitative and qualitative evaluation was built into each stage of the project. The Cancer Awareness Measure (CAM) survey was used to measure participants awareness of cancer before and after the project. The Short Warwick Edinburgh mental Well-Being Scale (SWEMWBS) was used with participants to measure changes in attitudes and feelings associated with well-being. A variety of tools and techniques were also used to capture qualitative data such as artists and participants reflections.
The project looked at the outcomes in terms of participants awareness, engagement and personal development.
The CAM survey demonstrated an increase in awareness of warning signs and symptoms of cancer, causes of cancer and NHS screening programmes for breast, cervical and bowel cancer. There was a substantial increase in the proportion saying they would make an appointment with a doctor in the next 3 days to discuss a sign/symptom.
“The greater awareness of symptoms, causes and screening programmes is likely to lead to earlier presentation of symptoms by this group (& also potentially their friends/family) and usage of screening programmes thus resulting in improved cancer survival” (DJS Research 2011)
This is supported by the qualitative evaluation – participant’s attitudes towards cancer and screening were felt to change during the project and confidence and understanding increased.
“We have learnt so much. We will now take this cancer message seriously whereas before we didn’t” (Participant)
The empowering and engaging approach enabled effective engagement with targeted community groups and participants demonstrated a high level of commitment with good attendance at most of the sessions even during snow.
“Target groups identified by Dudley PCT have been effectively reached through the series of workshops…In addition to those we interviewed, others who did not attend the first and last workshop will have been reached by this intervention” (Comments on CAM survey by DJS Research)
The creative process helped build relationships and enabled the participants to open up/take part in group discussions, share personal issues, support each other and produce messages relevant for their communities. Many participants commented that this was the first time they had discussed health related issues as part of a group and how talking and sharing experiences and worries can be of great benefit.
“It’s important to talk – it’s the best support” (Participant)
They also identified how they could support each other to promote the messages and engage the wider community about cancer awareness issues.
The project aimed to provide an opportunity for participants to develop their self-esteem, confidence and promote positive emotional health and well-being. The findings from the mental well-being survey (SWEMWBS) carried out with 3 community groups pre and post intervention showed a statistically significant (t-test P <0.05) increase in the cumulative well-being scores. This increase in skills, confidence and well-being supported 54 participants to identify themselves as potential Community Health Champions.
“When someone tells us about the artwork we can tell them about what we’ve done and the messages” (Participant)
The creative process resulted in unique, eye-catching pieces which informed the development of the cancer resources. Participants’ ownership of the artwork/images used for the resources created a sense of connection; and learning to talk about their artwork and share their stories at the sessions helped them to develop the communication skills necessary to share the messages and resources from the project with others.
“I’ve been talking about it to my children and my friends and their children”
There was also evidence that participants became more empowered and willing to address some cultural barriers; such as using an image which included a breast model on the resources.