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Can repackaging aspirin get more people to take it daily for prevention?

aspirinNot many over-the-counter drugs can substantially improve your health. However, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, aspirin can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease for some people. There is also building evidence that daily low-dose aspirin reduces risk of breast cancer, colon and other gastrointestinal cancers, and may even slow down dementia.

When a doctor agrees that the benefits of daily low-dose aspirin outweigh the potential side-effects, aspirin can be an effective, practical and inexpensive way to save lives and save billions in taxpayer-paid healthcare costs. Yet less than 50 percent of those thought eligible to take daily aspirin appear to be doing it. Why?

As a cancer prevention researcher I think a lot about people’s health-related behaviors - and how to change them. What if increasing people’s usage of daily aspirin were as simple as changing the packaging? Now, the only way to buy aspirin is in a bottle, making it hard to remember if you took one each day. What if we put it in a calendar blister pack? What if we made the pills in the shape of a heart to remind you why you are taking it? What if the packaging and marketing encouraged you to bring up aspirin at your next doctor’s visit?

I recently submitted these ideas as part of the Target Simplicity Challenge - a pioneering “crowdsourcing” effort led by Target to identify new ideas for simplifying healthcare. I found out about the challenge on Twitter (thanks, @seattlemamadoc!), typed it up and even shot some video on my iPhone. The judging panel of doctors, designers, marketing executives and other industry experts liked it enough to make it one of eight finalists in the competition. This week I'm off to Target headquarters in Minneapolis to talk more about the idea before the winners are announced later in the month. The grand prizes include the opportunity to work with Target on turning my idea into reality.

And the public got a say, too - as you can read about on Target's site.

We need to stop and think about the easiest and simplest ways possible for people to take advantage of existing scientific evidence that will make them healthier. Doctors and medical researchers should work together with experts in design and marketing to identify more evidence-based opportunities to make prevention and healthcare simpler.

Aspirin is inexpensive and available widely over the counter, but still, we could make it easier to take for those people who could benefit. Short of legislating aspirin counseling (a good idea opined in the New York Times), we need fresh and exciting approaches. I really think better design will increase the appeal of daily aspirin for chronic disease prevention and hope I have the chance to find out.

Christina Clarke, PhD, MPH, is a research scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC) and a member of the Stanford Cancer Institute. Part of the Stanford Cancer Institute, the Cancer Prevention Institute of California conducts population-based research to prevent cancer and reduce its burden where it cannot yet be prevented.

Previously: Another big step toward building a better aspirin tablet and New research shows aspirin may cut melanoma risk
Photo by brxO

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