A multi-faceted campaign raising awareness and support for prevention and treatment of cervical cancer, the Es Tiempo campaign was produced in partnership with the University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Keck School of Medicine and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Design Brief / Challenge
Students were challenged to create communications to persuade Latinas in Los Angeles’ underserved communities to comply with clinical guidelines for cervical-cancer screening.
Latinas in North, Central, and South America are disproportionately vulnerable to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer can almost always be cured, if detected and treated early. In the underserved neighborhoods of east LA, incidence of early-detection screening—the routine pap test—is dramatically lower than elsewhere. Given current population trends, the incidence of cervical cancer will double or triple in the coming decades in Los Angeles unless effective interventions are instituted immediately. In collaboration with LAC + USC Medical Center, Designmatters created a trans-disciplinary studio to explore effective strategies for intervention in the East LA community.
Research and Project Development
The students began their research broadly: by visiting the USC/Norris Cancer Center , by visiting local clinics, by studying the visual and material culture of East LA. On the basis of this early research, the students created ‘rapid prototypes’ of their preliminary ideas for the project.
Most importantly, however, researchers at USC Annenberg School of Communications conducted focus groups with at-risk Latinas, and their findings brought the challenge into focus. Contrary to the class’ expectations, awareness of the pap test and its importance was not the fundamental problem: virtually all the women knew what a pap test was, and that they should be screened regularly. However, the barriers—cultural, institutional, and practical—were many and varied:
- The women disliked discussing medical matters in general, and had a particular distaste for discussing reproductive health:
- Those who had experienced a pap test found it uncomfortable and undignified—and were naturally reluctant to repeat the experience.
- Most of the women didn’t have any regular relationship with a primary-care physician: in fact, they were far more likely to see their children’s pediatrician than see a doctor for themselves.
- Many tended to distrust physicians: indeed, most of these women said they had more confidence in the medical advice given by their mothers, sisters, and female friends than in the advice they got from doctors.
- Many tended to rely on outside authorities for instruction, however: some noted that the Mexican government routinely issues health-care reminders and directives, and as a result they didn’t keep track of screening schedules on their own.
- Many were reluctant to provide personal information—even phone numbers—to any authority; as a result, no reliable database of at-risk women could be established, for the purposes of issuing reminders or for follow-ups.
- Many didn’t know where to go for low- or no-cost pap tests in their neighborhood.
- Many couldn’t afford to take the day or half-day from work, even to visit a local clinic.
Project Es Tiempo
Given the number and complexity of the obstacles, a simple advertising campaign wouldn’t be enough: a more elaborate integrated communications program, knocking down as many barriers as possible, was required. The students settled on a three-part program.
Salience and Way-Finding
For this, the students appropriated the jacaranda tree—the beautiful, beloved, purple-flowered tree that blooms in southern California, and in Central and South America, each spring. The first part of the campaign links the jacaranda tree to screening: posters, video, and radio advertising remind women that “when the jacaranda tree blooms, it’s time to schedule your pap test.” Maps and environmental graphics—again, featuring the jacaranda tree logo—direct women to local clinics where they can obtain low- and no-cost pap tests. All are signed with the tag line “Es Importante, Es Facil, Es Tiempo”: “It’s Important, It’s Easy, It’s Time.”
To ease the financial burden of missing work during screening, students devised the Es Tiempo VISA Gift Card: when a woman gets her pap test, her card is credited with $20; when she calls back to obtain her test results, her card is credited with another $10; if she persuades a friend to get a pap test, her card is credited with another $5. The balance can be spent anywhere VISA is accepted. In addition, an easy-to-use website allows the woman to check her test results and card balance online, and offers videos of a friendly young woman explaining what pap results mean, and encouraging the viewer to follow up. In all aspects, the campaign is light, friendly, and approachable: there’s no fear-mongering, no hectoring, no doctors present at all—just a social network of friends helping and encouraging each other.
To subsidize the effort, the students proposed a themed fund-raising campaign. In it, corporations committed to women’s health and well-being—OPI, Avon, others—would offer Es Tiempo jacaranda-themed products (nail polish, perfume, room fragrance) to their customers; profits from sales would support the incentive program. By engaging the women everywhere, the fundraising effort continues and expands the central motive of the Es Tiempo campaign: women helping other women.
Finally, a series of ancillary products and services—t-shirts, tote bags, even warm socks for the exam room—perpetuate and amplify the campaign’s theme.
Students created an exhibition of the Es Tiempo campaign, displaying how all facets of the campaign worked together–from the moment a woman first encountered the campaign poster in her local library, her experience at the clinic, to when she received her results. The exhibition is planned to be displayed at LAC + USC Medical Center for prospective donors and partners to the campaign. It will also be used as a research tool with future focus groups at USC Medical Center.
Partnering institutions USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism continue to collaborate with Designmatters on fundraising for an anticipated pilot rollout of Es Tiempo in Los Angeles in 2013.