'Learn to Live' called a success in cancer awareness Program focuses on healthy lifestyles through screenings, smoking cessation

September 30, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Attendance at clinics to help people stop smoking has shot up dramatically and growing numbers of low-income women have received free cancer screenings since the county started its Learn to Live cancer-prevention program in January.

County officials, hailing the success of the program's first six months, said 180 residents have successfully completed the smoking-cessation clinics and nearly 300 women have received screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

Doctors found abnormalities that now are being treated in 17 of those women.

And even though health officials are behind in reaching their goal of screening 654 women by the end of the year, Frances B. Philips, the county health officer, is enthusiastic about the program.

"I believe this is a premier program in this county," she said. "I believe that it has been a tremendously successful one and it has been a very aggressive one."

The program, which began in January with an infusion of federal, state and local money, was developed after a Johns Hopkins University study found in June 1992 that Anne Arundel had the second highest cancer rate of any subdivision in Maryland, topped only by Baltimore.

County Executive Robert R. Neall allocated another $453,000 in county, state and federal funds to keep the program going through the next fiscal year.

"That's a lot of money, especially in these days of plain vanilla government, but it will be money well spent," Mr. Neall said yesterday. "If you're a football team or a basketball team, being in the top 10 is a good thing. This is one ranking I'd just as soon get out of."

The Learn to Live program focuses on encouraging healthy lifestyles that reduce the risk of cancer, providing health screenings for women, and studying what leads adolescents to start smoking.

The county hired Crosby Communications, a professional marketing firm, to coordinate the campaign.

The company distributed more than 138,000 fliers through many channels, including four banks that sent them with their customers' monthly statements, encouraging residents to quit smoking.

Crosby Communications also set up booths in supermarkets to distribute information on nutrition and passed out kits with information on sunscreen and skin cancer to county lifeguards.

In addition, the health department provided cancer screenings for low-income women.

An information hot line received 682 calls, the majority for information kits and inquiries about the women's health screenings.

According to an independent survey, the word is getting out. Of the 326 people contacted by a polling company in June, 16.5 percent had heard of the Learn to Live campaign. That suggests that more than 50,000 of the county's 380,000 residents had heard of the campaign.

Moreover, 85 percent of the respondents indicated that they had a high level of concern over the county's high cancer death rate.

"In conclusion, it is apparent from the survey that the Learn to Live campaign had a beneficial impact in informing county residents of the need for and value of cancer prevention," the report said.

For cancer prevention information, call the Learn to Live line at 222-7979.

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