Research & Insights

These Findings About Health Communications Are Nuts

Testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer when detected early, yet it continues to be a struggle to get young men to conduct testicular self-examinations. But new research out of Canisius College and West Virginia University suggests that humorous campaigns that go beyond relying on brochures may be the answer.

Published in the 2014 issue of the Journal of Health Communication, researchers Melissa Bekelja Wanzer, S. Catherine Foster, and Timothy Servoss from Canisius College and Sara LaBelle from West Virginia University found that a campaign called “Check Yo Nutz,” successfully raised awareness of testicular cancer among college-aged men and increased their intentions to perform self-examinations.

Check Yo Nutz, which featured an acorn-toting mascot Sammy the Squirrel, focused on providing information about testicular cancer to young men and emphasized the importance of self-examinations. The campaign included print media such as shower cards with directions for doing a self-exam and postcards with information about testicular cancer, postings on Facebook and Twitter, public service announcements in the school newspaper and radio station, and events like the “Dodge These Balls, Not Yours” dodgeball tournament.

Researchers collected two rounds of survey information from 272 male undergraduate students. The first survey was administered approximately two weeks before the campaign began, while the second survey was conducted approximately two weeks after it ended. The survey asked respondents about their knowledge of testicular cancer, their awareness of information campaigns, and their likelihood to conduct self-examinations.

The researchers found that “Check Yo Nutz” was effective at spreading the word about testicular cancer, increasing participants’ knowledge of testicular cancer and how to perform self-exams above pre-campaign levels. Participants also reported an increased intention to perform a self-examination within the next month.

“Similar to other successful college health campaigns,” the researchers wrote, “the Check Yo Nutz testicular cancer awareness campaign used humorous and novel message tactics…and displayed print materials in the form of posters and brochures to reach the targeted population.”

However, “certain campaign message strategies [were] more effective than others,” they note. Although print materials did raise awareness, campaign messages posted on social media or on the campaign website were more effective at increasing knowledge and changing behaviors.

Most strikingly, “attending a TC campaign event on campus resulted in the most significant gains for study participants. More specifically, men who attended a TC campaign event reported greater TC awareness, behavioral intentions, and behaviors than men who did not attend an event.”

The researchers suggest “Just reading information about TC in a brochure is not enough to encourage men to engage in [testicular self-examinations] or to speak with their physicians about TC.” When it comes to reaching young men, funny and informational messaging on testicular cancer, using multiple methods, can be the most effective.

Journal of Health Communication 

Melissa Bekelja Wanzer, S. Catherine Foster, and Timothy Servoss, Canisius College
Sara LaBelle, West Virginia University

Posted: July 27, 2015
Tagged as: