If most people knew that about half of all cancers could be prevented, would they do something to reduce their cancer risk? If most people aren’t aware about cancer risk factors and are going online for their health information, how do we better reach them? How can we present cancer statistics in a user-friendly way? How do we make prevention information more engaging?
These are some of the questions my colleagues and I had that inspired the development of the Canadian Cancer Society’s interactive online cancer prevention tool, It’s My Life! (IML). Combining the Society’s annual Canadian Cancer Statistics publication with evidence-informed cancer prevention information, we launched IML in September 2014.
In Canada, a 2013 study highlighted the need for better dissemination of cancer prevention information to the public, prompting a call by the authors to consider more innovative, online knowledge translation methods. It is clear that an evidence-informed, user-friendly approach to promote cancer-related lifestyle and risk behaviour change is needed.
It was important for us to be able to measure how the tool advanced our strategic priority of more Canadians adopting healthy behaviours and reducing their cancer risk. To collect information on individual behaviour, an intercept survey was programmed to pop up when visitors reached the last page of the tool. This survey captured initial impressions and a follow-up survey was sent about 2 months later. These surveys were conducted using Survey Monkey and we used Google Analytics to track visitor engagement.
In its first year, over 30 000 individuals visited the tool with a subset choosing to participate in an initial pop-up survey after completing the tool (902) and a follow-up survey a few months later (250). Initial survey results show that participants found IML to be relevant and easy to understand. They learned a lot about how to reduce cancer risk, and many respondents stated their intention to make a change in lifestyle.
Individual survey responses from the follow-up survey suggest that IML succeeded in encouraging Canadians to adopt healthy behaviours.
IML has increased the level of knowledge about cancer prevention and inspired commitment to change behaviour. The tool also led Canadians to support the Society’s mission (visit website, follow on social media, volunteer, advocate) and anecdotally led to behaviour change. With almost three-quarters of Canadian home Internet users going online for health information and many Canadians unaware lifestyle risk factors linked to cancer, IML is a tool that can increase awareness and encourage behaviour change.
Find out how to reduce your cancer risk. Try It's My Life now!
 Reference: The cancer prevention – attitudes, awareness and behaviours – survey, 2008, conducted by Environics Research Group on behalf of the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.