FEB 12, 2021 7:52 AM PST

A behavioral science approach to FIT kits

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have a new strategy to promoting colorectal cancer screenings. Partnering with a community health clinic, they exchanged the standard practice of sending a text message reminding patients to pursue screening for a default mailed-straight-to-your-home test kit (known as a fecal immunochemical test, or FIT) for those overdue for screening. The research takes a psychological approach, making it so that people actually have to opt-out of receiving an at-home test in order to avoid receiving one. The researchers say that this approach correlated with a more than 1,000% jump in screening rates.

The clinic that the researchers collaborated with primarily serves people of color.  Shivan Mehta, MD, who is associate chief innovation officer at Penn Medicine as well as an assistant professor of Medicine, explains: "Colorectal cancer screening rates remain limited in underserved populations, which includes those in the clinic we partnered with. We saw that there is an opportunity to use text messaging and new insights from behavioral science to increase uptake."

Their findings, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, have significant implications for fighting the racial disparities that are prevalent in colorectal cancer incidences. Previous research has shown that the number of deaths from colorectal cancer among Black people is 40% higher than in white people, and 100% higher than in Asian/Pacific Islanders. This may in large part be due to low screening rates in certain demographics.

Past studies have also shown that people are more likely to complete a FIT kit screening than the traditional colonoscopy, likely because of the ease and convenience of conducting the test in one’s own home. Watch the video below to learn about how a fecal immunochemical test works.

The study, led by Mehta and first author Sarah Huf, MBBS, relied heavily on behavioral science to influence participants. Of the 400 participants, 90% of whom were Black and half of whom were on Medicaid, 200 received a single reminder text to alert for overdue screening while the other 200 individuals received FIT kits (unless they had opted out) and three text message reminders to return the tests. The results showed that only 2% of individuals in the first group completed the FIT kit,  while 20% of the second group had completed it.

The researchers say that their investigations imply the potential for such behavioral science approach. "It is important to note that this is a population at a community health center that may not routinely seek out medical care, especially preventive care, so there is a low baseline screening rate," Huf added. "Future interventions may need to address issues such as reading comprehension and not having a stable place to live." Mehta notes that cost is also an important factor: "For these types of health clinics, minimizing cost is critical for sustainability since they have many competing health priorities for their patients," he concluded.

Sources: Journal of General Internal Medicine, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 19, 2021
Cancer
Japanese Berry Vine Could Treat Lung Cancer
AUG 19, 2021
Japanese Berry Vine Could Treat Lung Cancer
A berry-producing vine in Japan has shown promise in mouse models for treating lung cancer. The corresponding study was ...
SEP 15, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
The Molecular 'Anchors' That Hold Cells in Place
SEP 15, 2021
The Molecular 'Anchors' That Hold Cells in Place
Cells in the body are held in place with a kind of molecular anchor, called focal adhesions, where cells are linked to c ...
SEP 21, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Lifesaving TheraSpheres - glass microbeads can target and destroy colorectal tumors
SEP 21, 2021
Lifesaving TheraSpheres - glass microbeads can target and destroy colorectal tumors
The innovative medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific recently showed success in treating patients with ...
SEP 28, 2021
Immunology
Cell Therapy Scrubs Tumors, Spares Transplanted Organs
SEP 28, 2021
Cell Therapy Scrubs Tumors, Spares Transplanted Organs
Hepatitis B infections have created a ‘silent epidemic’—infected people don’t display any sympto ...
SEP 30, 2021
Cancer
Gut Microbiota Influences Colon Cancer Development
SEP 30, 2021
Gut Microbiota Influences Colon Cancer Development
The gut microbiome consists of all the microorganisms living in an individual’s digestive system. Various factors ...
NOV 09, 2021
Microbiology
Can This Cat Parasite Become a Tumor Treatment?
NOV 09, 2021
Can This Cat Parasite Become a Tumor Treatment?
You may have heard of Toxoplasma gondii because it is so common. Cats carry this parasite, and anyone that cleans a litt ...
Loading Comments...