The MAN VAN™ Nails It

by Vicki on March 28, 2014

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I ventured down to the BMO Centre to the Calgary International Auto and Truck Show. While wandering through the rows of new trucks and cars, we spotted a brilliant public health initiative that I knew I’d need to blog about. What was the health initiative that inspired me?


What is the MAN VAN™?

The MAN VAN™ is a mobile unit operated by the Prostate Cancer Centre.  Its purpose is to increase awareness of the importance of early detection of prostate cancer.  On scheduled dates it offers on-the-spot baseline PSA testing at a variety of locations.

……Through our “GET CHECKED” program, our professional staff travel with the MAN VAN™ to convenient locations to offer free PSA testing to men over 40. No appointment is necessary. In addition, employers can book the van to visit their offices and test employees on site.

The PSA test is a simple blood test that helps in the early detection of prostate cancer. PSA or Prostate Specific Antigen is a substance produced by the prostate and released in small amounts to the bloodstream. The amount of PSA in the bloodstream can often predict a man’s risk of prostate cancer. We provide free and confidential baseline PSA tests in the comfort of a motor home. The MAN VAN is equipped with comfy leather seats and a flat-screen TV to create an environment where men can relax while taking charge of their health.

Although I think their description of their service offering is OK, I don’t think it truly captures the brilliance of what I saw in person as I waited for my husband to make his trip through the MAN VAN™.

What did I see? I saw one man after another signing up to be tested for prostate cancer. Consistently and persistently.

And I can truthfully say that had you asked me to predict beforehand if the MAN VAN™ would have had much “business” at a car show on a Sunday afternoon, my prediction would have been dead wrong – what man wants to take time out at a car show to think about their personal likelihood for prostate cancer??

Here is why I think the application of their initiative is so brilliant:

  • The MAN VAN™ was positioned as just another exhibit. You didn’t have to go anywhere out of the ordinary to get to it, you had to walk by if you chose to visit the show row by row.
  • Their service offering was clearly stated on the van and around the exhibit
  • Seated outside the van was an older gentleman. His role was key. He continuously scanned the faces of the men walking by, looking for men that appeared to him to be 40+. When he spotted men who looked to be “of age”, he singled them out – pointing to them and calling out to them. Once he had their attention, he offered the services of the van. If they declined, he asked about the last time they had been tested. He was persistent and very direct, but in a calm and non-confrontational way. It was clear that this man was on a mission – their literature indicates that greeters often have personal experience with prostate cancer.
  • Any men that were 40+ who were open to being tested were quickly seated and expertly walked through a consent form. The greeter made completion so easy.
  • Following consent, men were seated in the motor home until it was their turn to have their blood drawn. At times, the number of men waiting to have their blood drawn was greater than the motor home could accommodate. The extra men sat or stood outside the van waiting for their turn.
  • The blood draw was quick and pain free (according to my husband)
  • If your PSA levels are good, the results are mailed to your home in about a day
  • If your levels require follow up, a health care professional will follow up with you via phone

Public health professionals have an uphill battle when it comes to getting people to adopt and maintain new health behaviors.

But despite the odds, the MAN VAN™ has it nailed – location, clarity of offering, champion of the cause, simplicity and speed of process. Inspiring!

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