The Movember movement was born in 2003 around the idea that mustaches could help initiate conversations about men’s health topics including prostate cancer and testicular cancer — and, as a result, save lives.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe, co-host of FOX Sports’ Undisputed, also believes in the power of conversation to affect health outcomes. A well-renowned talker, Sharpe battled prostate cancer in 2016 and the disease is now in remission.
If detected early, prostate cancer has a 96% survival rate, yet too many men, and especially Black men, are unaware of the need to be screened. Recognizing the value of highlighting the importance of prostate screenings is part of what motivated Sharpe to partner with Janssen on the company’s Talk That Talk campaign.
Tyrone Brewer, president of U.S. Oncology for Janssen, explains why reaching Black men in particular is a priority for the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary and how it factors into the company’s larger goal of addressing health inequities in a variety of contexts.
“Among the Black community, there’s this mistrust around medical care and also a misperception that [prostate cancer] is not a serious disease,” he says. “It’s often considered the ‘good cancer,’ and the reality is it’s far from that. Black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer compared to other men.”
In order to tailor their messages to this audience, Janssen collaborated with Black-owned advertising agencies and organizations, as well as Black leaders, to tailor messages that would resonate with their target community. Foremost among these efforts was enlisting Sharpe as a spokesman.
Sharpe has used his daily FOX Sports’ soapbox to increase awareness of the campaign website, as well as the need for screening broadly. Additionally, his high profile has helped to secure coverage in the New York Post, Daily Mail, Men’s Health and other prominent mainstream news outlets.
The central component of the campaign, in addition to Sharpe’s role, is the website and its wealth of educational resources. While downloadable guides to encourage conversations with physicians are common to many disease awareness sites, Brewer thinks it is especially crucial in the area of prostate cancer among Black men. He says that getting men, who may be reluctant to have conversations about their health concerns, to open up is a central theme of Talk That Talk, as the name implies.
“Unfortunately, not only are Black men often diagnosed at later stages of the disease, but they are also less likely to get treatment versus other races,” Brewer says. “The website’s tools allow and empower them to have that conversation with physicians. The other attempt here is also to normalize these conversations generally. So you see different scenarios [on the site], whether it’s with a loved one, a daughter, a spouse, we want to show, again, that this is an important conversation that needs to be had.”
Brewer hopes that between the awareness push from Sharpe and the website, everyone who is exposed to the campaign will walk away with three key messages: the importance of diagnosis, the need to seek treatment and the encouraging truth about survival rates.
“When it is diagnosed early, you could be a part of the 96% that survive,” Brewer says. “Shannon actually refers to himself as ‘part of the 96’ because he had the courage and recognized the signs in his own family history. He understood the importance of screening and that saved his life.”