How could dialing 2-1-1 help fight cancer? | St. Louis Public Radio

How could dialing 2-1-1 help fight cancer?

Jun 7, 2012

A new study out of Washington University has found that the 2-1-1 phone information system could be an effective tool to fight cancer in low-income and minority communities.

Across the U.S., people can call 2-1-1 to get help with housing, food, and other social service needs.

Lead researcher and public health expert Jason Purnell says in Missouri, about a third of 2-1-1 callers in the study were receptive to taking a health-related survey — and many of those surveyed were willing to accept referrals for cancer screening and prevention services.

"Roughly 72 percent of women who were eligible for mammography accepted the referral," Purnell said. "Roughly 70 percent of women who were in need of HPV vaccination accepted that referral. And 60 percent of women who needed Pap tests accepted that referral."

About a third to a half of study participants accepted referrals for smoking prevention services or colorectal cancer screenings.

Purnell says the 2-1-1 system could be used to provide health referrals to millions of underserved people.

“2-1-1 fielded over 16 million calls in 2009, where we have the most recent data. And that could translate into millions of people who have cancer prevention and control needs, being reached every year.”

Of the just over 1400 callers who participated in the study, about 80 percent were women — probably, Purnell says, because many more women call 211 than men.