Mobile health bus targets cancer prevention in France

Touring Brittany, the CEMon Bus offers personalised health advice and raises awareness about free cancer screenings in underserved areas

The CEMon bus is trying to target health inequalities

A touring bus has set off to demonstrate ways to cut the risk of cancer and offering personalised health tips in parts of France that need it most.

Launched by the Centre Eugène Marquis in Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine), the so-called CEMon Bus travels to places in Brittany that are either far away from medical centres, or to deprived areas with reduced access to medical care, working with local organisations to identify the best stopping places. 

Raising awareness

Prevention and awareness are extremely important. 

“It is estimated that around 40% of cancers are preventable, depending on environment, exercise, nutrition and general lifestyle choices,” said Aurélie Pétureau, a public health doctor who is one of four staff members aboard. 

“The visits we have done so far have gone very well, with lots of people from a lot of diverse backgrounds. We have gone to public squares, Restos du Coeur, and an organisation that supports people with disabilities,” she added. 

The staff onboard the bus recommend healthy lifestyles to patients, including “nutrition, physical exercise, cutting tobacco and alcohol use, better sleep and more”. 

Patients can also walk in for a one-to-one appointment with a medical professional to discuss their lifestyle choices. 

“The real benefit is providing specific advice for people who may have very specific problems or situations,” Ms Pétureau said. 

Read more: Why are more young people in France getting cancer?

Patients are encouraged to answer a set of questions in an app, which produces colour-coded feedback to quickly identify the most important lifestyle and health factors. The medical professional then draws on these responses to provide advice and answer any specific questions the patient may have. 

On average, staff on the bus tend to see around 75 patients a day, providing an individualised overview for around 15-20 of them, although it varies.

They also raise awareness about free cancer screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer and colorectal cancer, the costs of which are completely covered by Assurance Maladie

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The four medical professionals have been trained specifically for this role and have previous experience working in the Centre Eugène Marquis, a cancer prevention centre.

The bus has a purely preventative purpose – the medical professionals do not provide actual cancer care – and will continue as the demand continues. 

Fighting inequality 

“We hope to reach every corner of Brittany,” said Ms Pétureau.

The initiative was inspired by other mobile preventative measures, including a similar bus. 

“The importance of the bus is that people who are furthest away from medical care are often the least well informed and the least aware of good practices, as well as the ones with the least help despite needing it most,” said Ms Pétureau. 

“It is a major concern for public health and there are serious inequalities at play.” 

France performs above average in the European Union for cancer treatment, however it is below average in terms of prevention and cancer screening. 

The name of the bus is a play on words because it is an initiative by the Centre Eugène Marquis (CEM) but is pronounced c’est mon bus (this is my bus).