South Africa - Cancer Anti-Stigma Initiative (LIVESTRONG-JSI )

Dates: 2010-2011

Country: South Africa


Services: Technical Assistance, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Research, Program Development, Strategic Planning, Training

Technical Expertise: Non-Communicable Diseases, Social and Behavior Change

In 2010, cancer became the leading cause of death worldwide. Nearly 50% of new cancer incidence and 2/3 of cancer deaths now occur in low and middle-income countries. In many of these countries, the stigma associated with cancer is a barrier to treatment and contributes to the high rates of mortality.

From April 2010 – October 2011, JSI and LIVESTRONG implemented the Cancer Anti-Stigma Initiative in South Africa. The goal of the project was to reduce stigma associated with cancer through culturally-relevant and targeted messaging while raising awareness of the global cancer burden.

The campaign had 5 major components:

  • Mass media: radio, video, print, and SMS-texting as a means to disseminate positive and informative messages about cancer and the ability to survive cancer
  • Community outreach: working on the community level to increase awareness about cancer and cancer-related stigma through trainings and community mobilization
  • Special events: bringing together survivors and the general public to gain a deeper understanding of awareness and the problem of cancer in South Africa
  • Public relations: working with journalists and the media to share positive and empowering messages on national, provincial, and regional levels
  • Monitoring and evaluation: collecting data to increase the body of knowledge regarding the issue of cancer stigma, identify key lessons in addressing stigma, and show impact

Results from the 18 month intervention included:
  • 61% of respondents stated that they were exposed to cancer messages in the last year via radio, PSA, events, pamphlet, friend, or other source.
  • Of those who were exposed to messages, 45% stated that they learned something new or did something different regarding cancer. The most common responses were greater awareness of cancer (33%), had learned of screening (22%), had a screening (10%) and had increased support or awareness of people with cancer (9%).
  • There was a significant increase in the number of respondents who stated that they had “a lot” of control in reducing cancer (from 32% to 37%) and a decrease in those who stated that they had “no control” (11% to 9%) or “a little” control (38% to 33%),
  • Regarding stigma, there was a significant decrease in those that responded that people with cancer were “less fertile” (37% to 32% ), “must deserve it” (16% to 12%), are “in constant pain” (70% to 61%) and “can’t care for their families (30% to 20%).
  • There was a significant increase in the number of women who were screened versus men between baseline and endline. More importantly, screening was 18% higher for those who stated they had been exposed to three or more interventions.

The initiative was developed as a model to be implemented in other countries and was subsequently replicated in Mexico.

Learn more about the impact of LIVESTRONG in increasing awareness and reducing stigma in South Africa.


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