By Karen Simone Nelson
Regional Cancer Day is an initiative that was born out of the Southern Regional Health Authority (SRHA) Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Unit. In Jamaica, cancer is the second leading cause of death in females and third leading cause of death in men, accounting for 8.8 million deaths in 2015.
In response to this threat, the Ministry of Health issued a mandate to reduce NCDs by 25% by 2025. Based on this goal, the NCD Regional Coordinator established a committee (SRHA- NCD) to raise awareness of cancer control and prevention, and to support those suffering from the disease.
SRHA-NCD joined forces with PAHO/WHO to commemorate World Cancer Day on February 4th each year and developed a three-year strategic plan that would allow each parish in the health region to host this event.
The objectives were to:
- Sensitize and educate the public in terms of cancer prevention
- Raise awareness of the four major risks factors
- Sensitize the public in the introduction of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine for cervical cancer prevention
- Strengthen the utilization of the visual inspection using acetic acid (VIAA) method for cervical cancer screening
- Increase the uptake of screening for cancer within the region.
The role of nurses in cancer prevention and control was highlighted.
The first event was hosted by the Manchester Health Services Team under the theme “We Can, I Can: Prevent Cancer.” This event was held at the St. Marks Anglican Church Hall, Mandeville where the guest speaker highlighted the role of nurses in cancer prevention and control. A wide range of screening activities to detect cervical cancer were conducted with emphasis on VIAA. More than 80 VIAA screens were done that day.
The second event was hosted by Clarendon Health Services under the theme “We Can, I Can Prevent and Control cancer”. The screening was expanded to three different sites: St. James Methodist Church. Sevens Road, Clarendon; Canaanites Community Centre and St. Luke Anglican Church.
- Health education sessions
- Free body checks
- Cervical cancer screening for over 120 women ages 25 to 54 years
- Booth display of the most prevalent cancers
- Collaboration with other sectors in sharing powerful cancer testimonies
- Nutrition demonstrations and sampling.
The event was a success as 132 VIAA screens, 171 blood pressure and blood sugar screens, 82 HIV tests, 5 physical activity sessions, and over 120 food samplings were accomplished.
The third event was hosted by the St. Elizabeth Health Services at the St Matthews Anglican Church, Santa Cruz under the theme: “We Can, I Can: Be Aware. Show we Care.” A Cancer Symposium was organized with emphasis on support systems for persons living with cancer and their families including mental health. SRHA-NCD partnered with National Health Fund (NHF) to provide mammograms and PSA testing.
Overall, 246 persons were reached:
- 30 mammograms for females over 40 and over
- 50 PSA test for males 40 and over
- 130 cervical cancer screens
- 48 digital rectal examination (DREs)
- 48 breast examination
- 248 blood pressure, blood sugar, height and weight
- 63 HIV tests
- 3 ECGs
- 17 cholesterol checks
- 8 depressions screens
- 2 physical activity sessions conducted and 200 nutritional samplings
Overall, this intervention has provided an avenue for all three parishes to collaborate their efforts in the fight against cancer and has contributed to improving the cervical cancer screening coverage in the region. This annual outreach initiative is a move towards advancing primary health care (PHC) and universal health.