The Evolution of the PA Prostate Cancer Coalition

The Pennsylvania Prostate Cancer Coalition (PPCC) was founded in 1999 as a charitable corporation under Pennsylvania law. As stated in corporation’s bylaws, the PPCC was organized to make prostate cancer a key public health priority in Pennsylvania. The organization focused on the prostate cancer patient and his family, and emphasis was placed on grass roots activism through the involvement of individuals and organizations throughout the Commonwealth.

In developing and implementing its program, the PPCC sought to utilize local prostate cancer support groups, providing them with programs which would increase prostate cancer awareness within their communities, while at the same time encouraging other communities within the Commonwealth to develop such groups. Our aim was to develop a network of local outreach groups who would provide educative services to the community and support services to patients and their families planning to undergo or who had undergone treatment.

Just as prostate cancer is more complicated than any of us want it to be, men are even more complicated. The survivor group-based model was not sustainable, as men typically do not join and stay active in survivor groups of any kind. It has been typical for men to receive prostate cancer treatment, and go about their lives without even identifying as a “survivor.”

In 2012, the PA Prostate Cancer Coalition decided to throw away the textbook for “How to Run a Cancer Awareness Organization.” The board examined the realities of prostate cancer and men’s health: 1) There are very few informational resources available to men; 2) There are even less dollars devoted to education men about prostate cancer and prostate health; 3) Nobody, not even men, were working to make prostate cancer a public health priority. We also recognized one of the biggest hurdles that goes with prostate cancer awareness and education: Men just don’t like to think about it, talk about it, or take action about it.

2013 was a breakout year for the PA Prostate Cancer Coalition. We developed and piloted our Don’t Fear the Finger(TM) outreach and education campaign.  Through visual posters and vignettes featuring normal men talking about prostate cancer, we were able to start de-stigmatizing prostate cancer. All of the sudden, we had an ice-breaker to start the conversation with men. Our first outings for Don’t Fear the Finger(TM) were on the sides of SEPTA buses in northeast Philadelphia and city buses in Pittsburgh.

In 2014, we continued our Don’t Fear the Finger(TM) campaign on billboards, social media ads, and with partner organizations. We also added several Pints for Prostates events across the Commonwealth. You’ll notice that part of our mission is to find men in their “natural habitats,” and we found almost 2,000 men in breweries across PA.

The PA Prostate Cancer Coalition expanded even more in 2015. We rolled out our “It’s an us problem.” campaign to education women about prostate cancer. Studies show that as men age, women become the primary decision-maker for healthcare. Over the past 20 years, women have done a tremendous job of increasing breast cancer awareness, education, and funding. We’re hoping to channel that fierce energy to help protect the men that they love, too. We also created a fantastic campaign with the Lancaster Barnstormers baseball team. Pants Down for Prostate Cancer is a three year partnership, where the Barnstormers pitchers posed for promotional images with their literal pants down to prostate cancer.

What does 2016 hold? Keep checking back to find out! We’ll still be in Lancaster with our pants down, and we’ll still be telling men to Don’t Fear the Finger(TM). You’ll also find us at the last call during our NovemBEER events, and if we’re lucky there will be some NovemBEARDS in attendance, too.