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Turning two negatives into something positive

We all know that catching cancer early can improve our chances of survival. For some charities, such as Coppafeel, the primary aim is to encourage people to know their body and get checked out as soon as they suspect there may be something wrong. Yet our inherent behaviour means we often put off seeing our doctor.

The reasons for stalling are varied, from wanting to ignore reality, a dislike of doctors and hospitals to simply putting it off until tomorrow.

One of the barriers is that you can’t get to see a doctor immediately. You have to book an appointment and then organise your life around it.

All of which makes the Get to Know Cancer pop-up clinic initiative in the Centrale Shopping Centre in Croydon such a great idea. Shoppers can pop in and ask questions to specialists and nurses from the Royal Marsden and Cancer Research UK (for whom Zeitgeist recently did a half marathon – sponsorships still kindly accepted).

Why we like it

It’s obvious to anyone strolling through a UK town that the economic downturn has lead to a depressing number of empty properties along the high street.

The most recent high profile closure was JJB Sports who went into administration last week with the loss of thousands of jobs. The retailer followed a number of famous names, including Clinton Cards, Blacks, Peacocks and Game to either disappear or be sold off to new owners.

For some, the traditional high street is beyond salvation.

In his new book, Sold Out, the former Iceland and Focus DIY CEO  Bill Grimsey, writes that the high street is “as good as dead already“.

He believes that repeated failures by government, online shopping and the recession have created a perfect storm and lambasted the review of sector by the retail expert Mary Portas as “all a waste of money and resources”.

As for cancer, the consequences of this terrible disease are known to us all, lives taken and lives destroyed.

Saving lives and money

Recognising our natural inertia and the need to get illnesses diagnosed as soon as possible the shop interrupts people and overcomes many barriers. And like all great ideas, it’s simple. Now that it exists, it’s strange to think that it has taken so long for such an idea to be implemented.

Aside from the human cost, cancer costs the state around £11bn a year. So quite apart from the emotional benefit of saving lives, the clinic could save us all money.

Bill Grimsey might be right. The traditional high street may well be gone forever. If it has, our challenge is to find new ways to use the empty spaces left by defunct retailers.

Let’s hope that the Croydon trial is a success and the start of the renaissance.

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