Overview and Challenge

The dangers and risks of cancer to minority populations has been well documented by the national media, federal health agencies and advocacy groups. All too often, however, these stories are about the chances of getting the disease and risk of death without any mention of how to prevent cancer.

Through a collaboration with researchers at the Health Communication Research Lab at Washington University in St. Louis and funding from the National Cancer Institute, the HCRC embarked on the creation of the Ozioma News Service to send positive messages about cancer prevention out to African American newspapers around the country.


Based on findings that showed that black newspapers were the most trusted news source for African Americans and that African Americans were more responsive to positive news than negative news, we created the Ozioma News Service. Ozioma, which means “good news” in Ebu, presents locally-relevant cancer prevention stories with a positive message to black newspapers in 24 cities around the country. Each story has personal or community action steps that can be taken to help prevent or lower the risk of cancer among African Americans.

Strategy and Creative Direction

In Ozioma I, the first iteration of this project from 2003 – 2008, we learned that the more local the information could be, the better the chance of the newspaper picking up the stories. For Ozioma II, we added the American Cancer Society as a partner and hired members of 12 communities to be our “news specialists,” locals who did interviews and took photos for the stories for their communities.


After sending out 54 cancer prevention stories, we definitively learned that adding news specialists significantly increased the rate of newspapers picking up the stories. The significance of this is that through Ozioma (and the HLM News Service project) we learned that by using local advocates or community networks to augment a journalistically-written story with local quotes and/or information (such as a cancer walk event, local park, etc.), a group can greatly increase its chance of earned media success.

The next phase of this project will be examining how local media outlets and health groups can create cancer prevention messages with LocalHealthData.org, a database that pulls together statistical information on a variety of health problems including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer and other conditions, many of which are prevalent in the African-American community.


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