• The problem

    Bowel cancer screening is proven to be effective at identifying bowel cancer, a disease that can develop into a serious condition without presenting noticeable symptoms. Currently everyone in the UK between 60 and 74 is invited to participate in the screening programme every two years, but less than 55% of invitees actually participate partly because the benefits of the test are not immediately obvious.

    The solution

    Helix designed an improved out-of-box experience for the bowel cancer screening kit. This includes a stool catcher, clear instructions and a series of animated films that explain the reasons for participating and practical advice on completing the previously unmentionable task.

  • Impact

    Our team is in the process of designing a study to measure the impact that our kit can have on the uptake of population screening. In our field research, we met with a cross section of "super users" who had received the kit through the post. Michael, one of our research participants, has a physical disability making it near impossible for him to complete the existing test on his own whereas Mary, another participant, religiously completed the tests as soon as they arrived. Through understanding these different experiences, we created a set of tools that will make an undesirable task — sometimes downright impossible — easier to do.

    We are working with several screening programmes to trial the impact of the intervention. The trial will evaluate the effectiveness of the kit with over 30,000 participants.

  • Our team conducted multiple in-home interviews to understand how people perceived the kits once they received them. One quote stuck with us:

    "I had never heard of bowel cancer before receiving the kit in the post"


  • Language Matters

    Our insights led us to develop not just a simple device to make the task easier, but also a cohesive set of communications. Through this process, we learnt about the impact of language on people's perceptions of healthcare services. Jane — one of our research participants — told us that the word 'cancer' terrified her. 

    In response to this observation, rather than calling the kit a "Bowel Cancer Screening Kit" we opted for positivity and called it "Bowel Health." This was the starting point for a whole system of communications, including videos explaining how to complete the test that presented the experience with a more welcoming, inviting tone.