Non-communicable diseases, such as cancers or diabetes, are responsible for 63% of deaths worldwide, making them the leading cause of mortality in the world. As the global health community works to find solutions to these illnesses, it is important to remember that these diseases can come in a variety of forms and often those affected are plagued by stigmatization or simple lack of awareness. This leads to low rates of treatment and high rates of preventable complications including death. These are the issues that the latest batch of featured case studies face as they explore programs focused on treating NCDs around the world.
Access to Care
Often times, even if a population is aware of the threat of NCDs, there are very few places for them to turn for help. Transportation to far away a hospital is expensive and time consuming for people with limited resources. The Peruvian League in the Fight Against Cancer takes on cervical cancer and lack of access simultaneously through mobile detection units focused on low income and low education areas that most need attention. The project utilizes the Visual Inspection with Acetic acid (VIA) technique, which is a painless and efficient way to test for and treat cervical lesions. This limits the amount of time and travel that the underserved populations need to take in order to receive life-saving care.
While the Peruvian League tackles cancer by taking themselves to the people, Instituto Se Toque approaches breast cancer through a slightly different source: school children. Through classes on sexual education and hygiene, the Instituto also teaches students about breast cancer and encourages them to tell their mothers and grandmothers about the importance of early detection. If the women send back their health information to the school, they are eligible to receive a free mammogram and other services from the clinic.
While the above mobile operations are reaching people who would otherwise potentially never see treatment for these problems, there are many programs that are adopting on the classic stand-alone clinic model and adding some new twists. Both Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialties Center in India and Hospital de Cancer de Barretos work under the principle of putting the patient first and making the experience of treating disease as complete and comfortable as possible. The hospitals focus on creating a complete care experience under one roof, all for no cost to the patient. This includes everything from a nutritionist to room and board for your companions during your stay.
Sometimes, what is most needed in the case of NCDs is not necessarily treatment but control of symptoms and a caring and accepting environment, particularly with diseases that remain controversial in a given culture. Rachel House, a program that works on creating palliative care for children suffering from terminal diseases, does just that. Creating a knowledge base and overcoming the stigmatization of this sort of care was one of Rachel House’s biggest challenges. Now they are able to provide in home care and support to families at a time when this type of understanding is most needed.
Stigmatization of NCDs is not limited to end of life care options. The Banyan program of India works to fight against the shame associated with mental disorders in women. Through a variety of outreach projects within the community and rehabilitation programs to empower the women, the Banyan has been able to reach out to thousands of patients and their families to over come these issues.
Stigmatization and lack of awareness are certainly not the only challenges these programs face. Funding of these programs is often a high hurdle to jump given that many of these diseases do not have a set cure and therefore no set funding end date. While some programs, like Hospital de Cancer de Barretos is able to utilize, at least in part, the government health care scheme, most must depend solely on private donations. Organizations like Rachel House have a strong network of donors who are able to keep their project both sustainable and scalable, while the Banyan and others have worked hard to advocate to the government for health plans that include these growing issues.
As non-communicable diseases take on greater importance in the global health community, so too will solutions like these programs. Be sure to learn more about each of these projects and our other case studies by exploring our analysis section of the website.
Full List of Non-Communicable Disease Case Studies