The systematic cultural adaptation of a UK public health cancer awareness raising programme for Malaysia: the Be Cancer Alert Campaign

Désireé Schliemann, Tin Tin Su, Darishiani Paramasivam, Saunthari Somasundaram, Nor Saleha Binti Ibrahim Tamin, Maznah Dahlui, Siew Yim Loh, Michael Donnelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Increasingly, policy and research attention is being directed toward improving global health in low- A nd middle-income countries. This study investigated the cultural adaptation of a UK-designed and developed evidence-based mass media campaign with the aim of improving colorectal cancer and breast cancer awareness in Malaysia. Guided by the heuristic framework of cultural adaptation, a multidisciplinary team adapted the UK Be Cancer Aware programme for implementation in the Malaysian context. The approach included five steps: (a) information gathering and needs assessment; (b) preliminary design; (c) preliminary testing; (d) refinement; and (e) final trial. Key findings from the information gathering stage related to the need to take into account differences in ethnicity, religion, and beliefs about cancer. Discussions with experts indicated that particular words were not acceptable in Malay culture and that specific aspects were "taboo" (e.g., showing pictures of breasts in relation to breast cancer on TV). Stage 3 of the analysis revealed that the presentation of cancer survivors rather than health professionals on programme materials was preferred by Malaysians and that there was a poor level of awareness about colorectal cancer. The results were used systematically to adapt two culturally suitable cancer awareness mass media campaigns for implementation in Malaysia. The developed materials were in line with government priorities and took into account the local health care system structure. The establishment of a partnership with key stakeholders (e.g., the Ministry of Health and the lead patient advocacy organization) and the application of a systematic approach to address cultural factors and resource constraints contribute to the successful implementation of public health programmes in global health settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1087-1099
Number of pages13
JournalTranslational Behavioral Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Cultural adaptation
  • Interdisciplinary research
  • Malaysia
  • Mass media

Cite this