Poet laureate and citizen scientist combines art and health

E. Stanley RichardsonA celebrated artist and University of Florida Cancer Center citizen scientist found a unique way to fight cancer through community-based poetry. E. Stanley Richardson, the first Poet Laureate for Alachua County, directed a recent poetry festival in Gainesville that included recruitment for cancer screenings.

Richardson established the Bard & Broadside North Central Florida Poetry Festival in 2012. This year’s edition on April 13-16 had the theme of “Unity in the Community through Text & Image” and was hosted by ARTSPEAKSgnv, an organization that promotes literacy and healthy communities.

The free poetry festival kicked off with an open mic jam at the UF Harn Museum of Art. The four-day interactive event featured kid’s events and workshops with poets Alejandro Aguirre and John Murillo. Participants composed collaborative compositions and shared passages by favorite authors.

Connecting with Health

Participants also received a flyer with poetic flair that promoted screenings for colon and rectal cancer. It was created by the UF Health Cancer Center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement and their flagship initiative, Project CONTINUITY, which engages local and at-risk communities with services for cancer prevention and treatment.

“We were thrilled to work with Stan on this great community event,” said Sable Barrow, M.P.H., CCRP, an assistant director of clinical research in Health Outcomes and Biomedical Informatics. “We also were excited about promoting the importance of colorectal cancer screenings to the community in a creative way.”

Educating about Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer, one of the top ten cancers within the UF Health catchment area in northern Florida, is highly treatable when detected early. But many people are not aware of the early signs and symptoms or the importance of routine screening. Certain lifestyle choices such as diet, lack of physical activity and smoking can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Studies have shown that people with limited or no insurance, with low income, or with limited access to healthcare are less likely to receive colorectal cancer screening, leading to lower survival rates.

In recent years the screening guidelines have been updated to lower the minimum age for colorectal cancer screening from 50 years of age to 45. Educating communities about colorectal cancer can help reduce the incidence of the disease, improve early detection rates, and increase the chances of successful treatment.

Project CONTINUITY provides local access to colorectal cancer screening. For more information about the program, please call 352-273-8078 or email ProjectCONTINUITY@ad.ufl.edu.