A statewide coalition of respected health agencies and organizations recognized BCBSND for its efforts to increase colorectal cancer awareness on behalf of its members and North Dakotans. BCBSND was originally set to accept the prestigious Organization of the Year for the 2020 North Dakota Colorectal Cancer Screening Achievement Awards at the March 14 “Turn the State Blue” event. Due to COVID-19 precautions, unfortunately the event was canceled.
COVID-19’s impact on colorectal cancer screening
While North Dakota achieved significant increases in colorectal cancer (CRC) screening rates in recent years, COVID-19 now threatens this progress. At the beginning of the pandemic, leading national agencies recommended delaying all non-urgent medical procedures. Across the nation, CRC screenings have seen historic declines since the start of the pandemic. The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) reports a 90% drop in colonoscopies and biopsies by mid-April compared to the same period in 2020. Experts estimate 18,800 missed or delayed diagnoses from early March through early June, and over 4,500 excess deaths from CRC over the next decade. Experts agree; despite the challenges we face during the pandemic, CRC screening must remain a public health priority.
Prioritizing colorectal cancer screening
According to NCCRT, one practical and widely available strategy to overcome delays and barriers to screening resulting from the pandemic is to offer and implement stool-based screening tests for those of average risk. The NCCRT’s Clinicians Reference provides guidance on high-quality stool testing. However, with the appropriate safety precautions, colonoscopies remain a safe option for screening.
Because 33% of eligible North Dakotans are not up to date with colorectal cancer screenings, 20 organizations in North Dakota pledged to work toward increasing the number of people screened. BCBSND was part of those organizations that participated because through early detection, colorectal cancer is treatable and beatable, and BCBSND is committed to decreasing colorectal cancer through preventative screenings.
Join us in continuing to prioritize CRC screening, even as we navigate the obstacles of COVID-19.
BCBSND’s commitment to this initiative
In 2019 BCBSND increased its awareness for colorectal cancer through many initiatives. The BCBSND Caring Foundation partnered with the North Dakota Colorectal Cancer Roundtable and the North Dakota chapter of the American Cancer Society to produce two videos of North Dakota colorectal cancer survivors, Amanda and Elliot. The videos urging people to talk to their doctors about screenings have reached over 10,000+ people on social media and have been aired more than 22,000+ times at clinics nationwide through GoodHealthTV, including roughly 3,000+ airings across North Dakota.
BCBSND also made changes to its benefits to cover additional screenings, including covering the less invasive, at-home fit test. BCBSND’s BlueAlliance metrics for providers also focus on screenings as part of the value-based payment measurements and incentive payments, and several providers in North Dakota have improved their screening rates for colorectal cancer screenings.
The BCBSND Wellness team developed a preventative screening toolkit encouraging businesses to allow for paid time off for colorectal cancer screenings (and other preventative screenings). Every March during Colorectal Cancer Awareness month, BCBSND mails a postcard, “Say ‘Yes’ to the Dress, it’s time to gown up for your colorectal screening.” These are sent to over 10,000 members reminding them of the latest guidelines on screenings, prevention and treatments.
Lastly, BCBSND supports several employees to serve on the statewide Colorectal Cancer Roundtable Committee, who collaborate with experts in the field and other stakeholders to help lead, plan and stay informed on new research, technology and other information to encourage more people to get screened and reduce the rates of colon cancer in North Dakota.
Click here to learn more about North Dakota’s battle against colorectal cancer.