IWD 2020 with Reach Lives - Tackling Cervical Cancer one child at a time
Earlier this year, Reach Lives embarked on a journey to help a small population of marginalized girls in the state of Goa access HPV vaccines. The HPV vaccine is administered to adolescents to protect them from HPV infections which may predispose to cervical cancer in adult life. That's right, a vaccine that can protect against cancer exists; yet, our children do not routinely receive the vaccine.
That's right, a vaccine that can protect against cancer exists.
Why don't girls in India receive the vaccine routinely?
Well, for starters the HPV vaccine is not part of the Universal Immunization Programme in India. Since it's not mandated by the government, it is not mass produced. Needless to say, a course of vaccination can cost upwards of ₹9,000 per child depending on the setting. This is way beyond the means of an average Indian family. It truly becomes difficult to justify spending this much on protecting a child from a disease that seems so irrelevant. Yes, a quick search on google will reveal some alarming statistics that will quickly prove its relevance; however, we aren't talking about the top 10% 'privileged' Indians here.
How did Reach Lives tackle this problem?
Reach Lives functions as a platform for health providers to reach marginalized communities. This means our job starts with finding deserving communities that are underprivileged but can be reached with our help. Extensive search and discussions with state governments brought us to a population of children in Goa. An in-depth needs assessment provided us the data with which to approach relevant manufacturers and service providers to meet the identified 'unmet needs'.
We leveraged our partnerships with large Pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers to procure the vaccines at an affordable price. By hosting a marathon in Goa, which was attended by a mixture of professional athletes, professionals, students and volunteers from other NGOs, we raised funds to cover the cost of procuring the vaccine.
Over the course of the next month we organized and executed several health awareness and promotion campaigns. The objective of these events was to educate the masses on the importance of screening for cervical changes among adult women and the need to vaccinate children during adolescence.
Since January, 2020, we have started working with Manipal Hospital, Goa to engage the identified communities and organize vaccination clinics free of charge. This is an ongoing project and will be completed by the end of 2020. We will be continuing to organize marathon fundraisers to fund our activities and spread awareness on health topics. For more information on how you can be a part of this, please visit www.reachlives.com/volunteer.