In ancient times, mankind’s quest to realise a disease-free world was primarily disease prevention. With recent scientific advancements, technological progress and medical progression, doctor’s diagnostic and curative capabilities have vastly improved and focus tilted away from prevention. The current Covid 19 pandemic has brought back into sharp focus the superiority of prevention as social distancing, hygiene, immunity and lifestyle changes have found wide acceptance, even as we wait for a vaccine, the ultimate preventive strategy. This is an opportune moment for a paradigm shift in healthcare sector’s direction from “sickness and curative focus” to “preventive focus.”
Amongst Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), cancer care is still an art and not a science, where prolonging life with dignity is sometimes the only option. Thus, the importance of early diagnosis and prevention in oncology cannot be over emphasised. Unfortunately cancer causes are numerous. Cancer risk factors are diverse and include tobacco, sedentary life style, dietary factors, obesity, alcohol, pollution, carcinogens (physical, chemical & biological), radiation and genetic disorders. WHO has estimated that 30-50% of all cancer cases are preventable and prevention is the most-effective long-term strategy for cancer control. At an individual level too, from emotional, social and economic perspective, disease free is better than disease cured.
BALCO Medical Centre (BMC), a state-of-the-art, 170-bed, ultra-modern, multi-modality diagnostic and therapeutic cancer hospital in Raipur, Chhattisgarh was inaugurated in March 2018 with the vision “where everybody lives free from cancer, for life.” The four pillars to realise this vision are education, prevention, early diagnosis and treatment. After having brought world class oncological facility to a region previously underserved, BMC is looking to strengthen the other three pillars to realise its vision.
For the success of any disease preventive strategy, commitment and involvement of the local governments is a must for it to make a meaningful impact. BMC partnered with the Government of Chhattisgarh in Nov 2019 to roll out an effective cancer education, prevention and early detection drive. As committed in the open collaborative non-financial MOU, BMC conducts a weekly cancer camp at a government district hospital on rotation basis. Prior to the camp, the vast state health network penetrates the interiors to educate and mobilise. All effective modes of communication, print, electronic, digital and social are used. With NCD disease database in hand, grassroots level asha workers target and mobilise cancer suspects in their domain, making the camps extremely effective and different from normal cancer screening camps. This successful and collaborative model can be replicated across the country, after accounting for local, social, economic and political factors.
Every opportunity for cancer education and raising awareness is utilised, as in the long term, this will pay maximum cancer prevention dividend. Experience has shown that teaming with print and electronic media is most effective, especially during special events and days. Currently, BMC is engaging experts, as it is seeks like-minded collaborative partners to run vaccine programs to reduce the prevalence of HBV and HPV infections as they are cost effective strategies to reduce liver and cervical cancers respectively.
Mrs. Jyoti Agarwal, Chairperson, BALCO Medical Centre, said, “BALCO Medical Centre was established to contribute towards prevention, control and eradication of cancer among every strata of society and we are honoured that our small efforts are starting to make a big impact in the rural hinterland of Chhattisgarh.”
BMC is leveraging its strengths to cover risks that lie within healthcare sector’s direct influence. A multisectoral approach (including pharmaceutical industry & manufacturers) is required to further expand the footprint of cancer prevention, one that should be anchored by policy makers. Cancer prevention strategies should be integrated with other diseases burdens as cancer risk factors are common to other diseases. This aggregation of disease preventive strategy will open options to partner with other existing influential players, reduce costs and make it more effective.
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