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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Reducing Cancer and Cancer Disparities: Lessons From a Youth-Generated Diabetes Prevention Campaign

  • Author(s): Schillinger, D
  • Ling, PM
  • Fine, S
  • Boyer, CB
  • Rogers, E
  • Vargas, RA
  • Bibbins-Domingo, K
  • Chou, W-YS
  • et al.

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Adolescence and young adulthood, a period essential for determining exposures over the life-course, is an ideal time to intervene to lower cancer risk. This demographic group can be viewed as both the target audience and generator of messages for cancer prevention, such as skin cancer, obesity-, tobacco-, and human papillomavirus-related cancers. The purpose of this paper is to encourage innovative health communications that target youth; youth behavior; and the structural, environmental, and social determinants of youth behavior as critical areas of focus for cancer prevention and disparities reduction. The authors describe the rationale, processes, products, and early impacts of an award-winning youth diabetes prevention communication campaign model (The Bigger Picture) that harnesses spoken-word messages in school-based and social media presentations. The campaign supports minority adolescent and young adult artists to create content that aligns with values held closely by youth-values likely to resonate and affect change, such as defiance against authority, inclusion, and social justice. This campaign can be leveraged to prevent obesity, which is a cancer risk factor. Then, the authors propose concrete ways that The Bigger Picture's pedagogical model could be adapted for broader cancer prevention messaging for youth of color and youth stakeholders regarding tobacco-related cancers, skin cancers, and human papillomavirus-related cancers. The goal is to demonstrate how a youth-generated and youth-targeted prevention campaign can: (1) reframe conversations about cancer prevention, (2) increase awareness that cancer prevention is about social justice and health equity, and (3) catalyze action to change social norms and confront the social and environmental drivers of cancer disparities.

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