Friday, January 14, 2011

DEGREE PROJECT | On-going Research: A Summation

Well lets see...way back when I gave my Final Review presentation I was prompted with some valid feedback and potential directions to explore in respect to my degree project proposal. Based upon that feedback, personal consideration, and some additional research I have defined 8 areas in which my research will cover...below is a refresher on my degree project as well as a summation of research on this 8 points at this juncture, enjoy!
How can graphic design change the beliefs and connotations about cancer to inspire life through knowledge and tools that focus on early diagnosis and positive lifestyle choices that ultimately ignite awareness in a sustainable fashion?

In doing so I hope to take advantage of the pre-mentioned fascination with human connections; how cancer unites and rather disunites population, breaking boundaries and borders that would otherwise remain closed.

To further narrow the scope I plan to target college-aged young adults as they are a part of the demographic whose rates of survival have shown little improvement since 1975 and nearly 70,000 ages 15 to 39 are diagnosed each year.

This project focuses on this demographic not only due to the previous statistics but also due to their unique stage in life, as young adults we are on the path to success and independence and to be derailed from this path because of something seemingly uncontrollable we find ourselves helpless and isolated.

With this information and additional research I plan to take a grassroots approach to break boundaries, invade personal space, and send a message that will ultimately further the prioritization of cancer.
 01. What is the basic need and ultimately the end goal in mind?
In the broadest sense, there is a gap to be filled in all regards of healthcare for young adults. This resides on the shoulders of healthcare providers as well as the young adult demographic, and a sense of encouragement and responsibility needs to be established for both sides. Young adults need to be aware of the possibilities of cancer in regards to their health and my goal is to assist them in self-advocating in the community around them to build support. An obvious observation is that early detection/prevention is key and I hope to communicate the realities of cancer to this demographic and dispel the ignorance that exists; this is a matter that everyone should understand.

02. A focus within the young adult demographic – College students
So far, this has been the most difficult area to define and gain insight on in regards to cancer; but I think if I define an 'individual' similarly to what we produced in MX I should have better idea of the general wants & needs that may influence my project. Considering the college community in this project provides a venue to work with peer to peer interaction and relationships. A big reason for focusing on this group is most are not focused necessarily on health but on their successes entering and exiting college; most have not dealt with a serious illness or disease so in many ways cancer is a crash course, one that I hope can be avoided. Again, this demographic has such unique needs and are in such a prime time in their lives that cancer is a blindside, and I would like work towards perhaps eliminating or bringing down the wall a bit on their (our) 'invincible' mentality.

More specifically, in college, we often deal with a great deal of stress, lack of sleep, and find ourselves getting aches, pains, and colds more often than not. This is another area where we as individuals fail, we often push aside these subtle 'symptoms' and wait for them to dissipate on their own...and unfortunately the most subtle change in a person's normal health could potentially be sign of cancer. This is where our demographic gets behind, symptoms are not noted by individuals let alone doctors and therefore late diagnosis is most often the case. With doctors often being on the same side and contributing to late diagnosis, my goal is to push individuals to understand and know their bodies and when something is not right they need to advocate for themselves, push back and make issues known.

03. What partnerships can be established to further the impact of this movement?
 At this point I have several avenues that I am considering in regards to partnerships that may help further the impact of my message. I am in the process of reaching out to the oncologist of one of my good friends who fought cancer, and I am also considering the possibility of partnering with the Livestrong Army of KC which could potentially open the doors to many cancer resources. There is also the thought of reaching out to insurance companies, colleges in the area, as well as healthcare providers. Ideally if this matter could be attached from all fronts it would provide the most impact as the cause relies not only on the individuals but also outside entities such as doctors and insurance companies.

Within the primary care community there should be encouragement to get yearly check-ups, as well as for doctors not to disregard young adults with a notion that they are 'too young to get cancer'.

04. Lets spark influence...
I feel that this will be the drive of the project; the question at hand is how can I as a graphic designer spark influence and advocate change by providing tool for the given demographic to influence and advocate for themselves. Once I gain a better grasp on the focused demographic, deeper research is done, and contacts are made, I should have a better idea of what might be suited for this cause. Ultimately I would like to produce something that encourages peer to peer interaction and influence. Maybe I will just harness the power of 'peer pressure'!

05. What are the current models, their goals, problems & successes? 
In doing research thus far, I have discovered some models in the same area; however, I have not found any that specifically 'invade' and interact with the demographic in ways that I hope to pursue. Most are awareness and advocacy campaigns or support that exist online and provide information to resources. Though all of these approaches are much needed and facilitate the cause, I still feel there are a large number of us it does not reach; most focus on those diagnoses, fighting, or surviving cancer, not necessarily prevention and early diagnosis.In my research it surfaced that there are few, if any, dedicated trials or real promotion to this population.

Examples of some of these model organizations are the LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance and 15-40 Connection.

06. What is needed to measure change and ultimately how goals can be met?
Some areas of my research focused on this matter and the biggest need is for relationships and communication to be developed between healthcare providers and individuals. With these relationships both parties will gain a better sense of what the benchmark is and from there we are better able to assess change. Now, there are other areas I would like to explore as well, so this is only the beginning...

07. How can this project invade personal space and what is the result?
Here the goal is to facilitate sharing; friends talking to friends and bridging the gap in care from all angles...friends, family, doctors, colleges, etc. In meeting with a close friend who fought cancer, he always seemed to refer back to relationships and communication due to the isolating and unique circumstances he was faced with. So I feel that perhaps establishing these core relationships before the fact may have some benefit...

08. What ordinary causes are there to cancer – something we can relate to?
 Taking a look at simple measures that can be made to help prevent cancer seems beneficial given the focused demographic. Looking at ways of how lifestyle choices can effect chances of cancer, such as, regular exercise, healthy eating, drugs & alcohol, and applying sunscreen. Topics such as these may effectively relate to the demographic due to their simplistic nature and seemingly commonplace.

LIVESTRONG Young Adult Alliance
Planet Cancer
Planet Cancer (II)
Young Adult Cancer Awareness – Ways to Improve Survival Rates
Rock The Doc – 15-40 Connection

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