NFL, other partners help drive American Urological Association Foundation initiative

October 1, 2009

Sandra Vassos, MPH, executive director of the AUAF, discusses the foundation's increasingly visible initiatives.

As the official foundation of AUA, the American Urological Association Foundation (AUAF) focuses on four key areas: advocacy, programs/education, development, and research. In this interview, AUAF Executive Director Sandra Vassos, MPA discusses the Foundation's increasingly visible initiatives in each of these areas, including a new collaboration with the National Football League on prostate cancer awareness. She was interviewed by Urology Times Editorial Consultant Richard D. Williams, MD, professor and chairman of the department of urology at the University of Iowa, Iowa City.

Q What do you consider the strengths and primary objectives of the AUA Foundation?

Specifically, we provide brochures and other materials for physicians' offices. We operate a toll-free hotline that takes calls from patients and the public in English and in Spanish. Our Web site, which is increasing in popularity, allows patients, caregivers, their family, and physician extenders to log on for information. We also work very closely with community health care centers, churches, and other faith-based organizations across the country to reach out to patients and provide them with information that is very credible and geared to educating the consumer.

Q How can physicians order patient education materials for their offices?

Q What other plans do you have for patient education initiatives?

A Last year, we piloted a program called the Community Cross Training, which is designed to train the trainers on the ground, across the country, in urology health. This program brings together nurses, retirement home administrators, prison officials, departments of health, and any group that works directly with the public and with patients, and we provide them with consumer-friendly training so that they can go back and teach their communities about urologic health. Our two topics right now are prostate and bladder cancer, but we're seeking to expand this initiative to sexual health, pediatric urology, kidney cancer, and other conditions.

The program has been very well received. We have trained over 200 organizations to date, including labor groups, health care educators, veterans, physician extenders, and nonprofit organizations. In turn, these organizations go back to their communities and their constituencies and reach thousands more people.

We also operate an online resource center, which is another way we reach these groups and patients directly. The resource center is an on-line library of ready-to-use urologic informative material that can be easily downloaded by organizations and community groups working in the public health arena. Since we launched this initiative, we have more than 550 members who use the resource center, including prisons, mobile health units, and other non-profit organizations. Through the resource center, we distribute our material and grant permission for our members to co-brand the materials with their name and location. The goal is to distribute through a variety of vehicles to reach patients and the public.

Q Tell us about your role in development and, particularly, the new NFL program.

A We are very proud of our association with the National Football League. Last year, in August 2008, we partnered with the NFL on a prostate cancer awareness initiative for retired players. The NFL has made a commitment to its former players in which the league provides prostate cancer awareness and prostate cancer screenings to former players in addition to its commitment to the fans through public education and outreach. AUA physicians have generously volunteered their time and services to fulfill this program.

The NFL is supporting us financially in this initiative through its NFL Player Care Foundation. We've received a grant from them that we hope to renew.

In addition, the NFL is committed to public education and awareness of prostate cancer. Public outreach through the NFL began at the 2009 Super Bowl, and we were very honored to have been selected by the NFL to be present there. During the weekend before and the weekend of the Super Bowl, we reached well over 100,000 people through our exhibit booth at the NFL Experience. Our public service announcement has aired in 44 states across the country and also debuted on the Jumbotron during Super Bowl activities.

To kick off Prostate Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in September 2009, the AUA Foundation and NFL teamed up on the "Know Your Stats About Prostate Cancer" campaign to encourage men to learn about prostate cancer. From a window display in Rockefeller Center, to hourly public service announcements on the Times Square Jumbotron in New York, to a new educational Web site, http://www.KnowYourStats.org/, the campaign will help men and their loved ones discover information about prostate cancer and help men who wish to be tested find free or low-cost screening locations through AUA members.

Q I understand the AUAF has an NFL spokesperson. Who is he, and what is his role?

A Hall of Famer Michael Haynes, who was a defensive back for the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Raiders, agreed to be our spokesperson for the prostate cancer awareness program that the Foundation has kicked off with the NFL. Mike was actually diagnosed with prostate cancer as a result of one of our programs with the NFL. He has expressed his gratitude to the Foundation and has offered his support and the support of former players and friends within the league to spread the word about prostate health and the importance of becoming aware of your health. As an aside, Mike Haynes has been very public about his own experience with prostate cancer. He has agreed to speak about his experience and, in his words, tell as many people as he can about it. Mike has been featured in the New York Post, New York Times, ABC News, BET, and other broadcast media talking about his experience with prostate cancer.

Mike attended this year's AUA annual meeting in Chicago, where we had a very successful NFL prostate cancer screening. A cast of retired NFL Hall of Fame players has also recorded a series of public service announcements, which will air in major media markets and NFL stadiums across the country, urging men to learn more and speak with their doctors. These gridiron greats are led by Mike Haynes, and feature other "Team Haynes" members, including Ray Lewis, Tony Dorsett, Anthony Muñoz, "Mean" Joe Green, Ozzie Newsome, Andre Tippett, and upcoming Season 9 "Dancing with the Stars" contestant, Michael Irvin. We are very greatful to all the players, especially Mike.