Butler University’s Employee Health and Wellness Program, Healthy Horizons, is employing a “happy, healthy birthday” wish to encourage co-workers to learn about and get screened for colorectal cancer while on campus.

Working as partners in the Indiana State Department of Health for the Workplace Cancer Screening Initiative, Healthy Horizons has taken new steps to promote screening and early detection of colorectal cancer through its annual wellness consultation appointments. The office has also developed patient education programming on colorectal cancer risk and basic lifestyle and dietary recommendations for prevention.

Director Carrie Maffeo said Healthy Horizons is focusing on colorectal cancer because:

  • It affects both men and women.
  • The screening rate for colon cancer is only 24 percent among eligible participants at Butler University.
  • Patients have expressed general concerns of the safety of a colonoscopy.

In the last academic year, Healthy Horizons began sending birthday cards to employees. The cards feature a chart of basic age-based screening recommendations for men and women, and invites employees to make an appointment with Healthy Horizons for their annual wellness consultation. 

“We especially wanted to invite employees who may have had no previous exposure to the services provided by Healthy Horizons to make an appointment,”  Maffeo said. The birthday cards also provide screening recommendations that employees can share with family members.”

Since the implementation of the birthday card reminders, Healthy Horizons has provided basic screening and lifestyle recommendations to 143 patients and provided additional counseling and colorectal screening education to 45 patients who met the age requirements, she said.  At least 20 employees become new patients with Healthy Horizons after receiving their birthday card.

The office provides patients 49 years of age and older additional counseling and education regarding colorectal risk factors, signs and symptoms, and recommended screening options.

Healthy Horizons has received several employee comments on the programming. One participant stated:

“As a colon cancer survivor (at the age of 45), and after losing several family members to this horrible disease, I am glad to see this program being offered.  This is not an easy subject to get people excited about, but it literally can save a life.  Thanks for doing this.”

The activities have been supported by a grant from the Indiana State Department of Health’s Cancer Control Section, in partnership with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Butler was one of only three Indiana institutions chosen in spring 2013 to participate in the pilot.

It kicked off with a confidential online survey regarding screenings for various types of cancer, aimed at helping Healthy Horizons develop a best practice workplace cancer screening intervention. Three hundred and seventy-four Butler staff and faculty members responded.

A second survey conducted in May 2014 measured employees’ attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors as they relate to colorectal cancer screening, and to Healthy Horizons efforts to increase screening participation and awareness. Two hundred and forty Butler employees responded to that survey.

Maffeo said Healthy Horizon plans to create a cost comparison tool for employees to use when it is time to complete a colorectal cancer screening.  The tool will include basic cost information for available colorectal cancer screenings, as well as costs for local facilities based on Butler’s Anthem insurance and United Healthcare. 

“This tool will continue to break down the barriers patients face when deciding to get screened for colorectal cancer,” she said. “By providing patients with education, screening options, and pricing information, we hope to not only empower patients to follow through with the decision to get screened for colorectal cancer and encourage their family members to do the same, but ultimately, to help the Indiana Cancer Consortium reduce the burden of cancer in Indiana.”