Cervical Cancer Prevention In Low Resource Settings: Experience from Battor
In the last few months, many people from several institutions have contacted me to share my experiences. They would like to replicate the cervical cancer prevention model we have in Catholic Hospital, Battor. They want to avoid pitfalls and challenges we faced before we got to our current status.
I am happy to share because one does not have to go through the difficult and expensive way when this can be avoided.
These are some points:
1. Locals know the problem best
Others may have the theoretical knowledge but you know your problem best practically. No two settings are identical. Cultural differences may be significant. What may work in another setting may not work for you.
2. Locals are the best to solve the problem
From (1), knowing the problem best means you have the best practical knowledge about the issues on the ground. You have to choose solutions that work for you, not what someone thinks will work for you.
3. Choose your partners well
Many partners (foreign and local) have their own interests to protect, and the reason(s) they would like to partner you. It may be to make profit, to promote their products, to publish etc. Occasionally, you may come across a genuine philanthropist.
Keep focused on the goal – to prevent women from dying from cervical cancer! It is so easy to be carried away.
Don’t let your partners dictate to you what has to be done. He who pays the piper calls the tune. When your partner is providing most of the funds for your project, there is the tendency for them to dictate what has to be done.
4. Raising money to achieve your goal
To avoid being dictated to, you may have to find ways to raise your own funds to do what works for you.
How did we do this in Battor?
We have been able to raise money by crowdfunding through mainly social media to bring Qiagen’s careHPV system to Battor for cervical screening by primary HPV DNA testing.
Again we have been able to raise money through crowdfunding to purchase Liger Medical’s portable thermal coagulator for treatment of cervical precancer.
On both occasions, those who contributed money shared in our vision and did not push their own interest.
B. Choosing partners/philanthropists who share in your vision
The Rotary Club of Accra East last year donated two mobile colposcopes (EVA systems) for our work in Battor.
The German Rotary Volunteer Doctors (GRVD) have supported us and continue to support us, especially in capacity building.
The University of Ghana Medical School Class of 1983 (UK branch) has bought an electrosurgical unit from Liger Medical for us. This unit is portable, has a smoke evacuator, and is battery powered (can operate for some minutes without electricity) which will make it possible for Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedures (LEEPs) to be performed on outreaches.
Note that our hospital can buy many of these equipment that we raise funds for, but when this is done, it means that the cost must be transferred to clients/patients. Poor women in remote communities cannot afford these services.
If we raise funds for these or get donations for these, clients have to pay a token for maintenance and replacement of the equipment in the long term. Even those who cannot afford can get the service for free at times.
5. Learn to say no
The best arrangement is when you decide what the donor will donate, not vice versa.
If an individual or group wants to make a donation to you, ask first what your obligations are once you accept the donation. If the expectations from you would restrict you or do not promote your vision, say no.
This sounds simple but this can really take you off your primary vision.
6. Take advantage of success
Finally, remember: ‘failure is an orphan; success has many fathers.’
When you achieve success, many who did not invest in you would like to be associated with your success. This is an opportunity to choose your partners well to achieve more success.
Author of article:Dr. Kofi Effah is an Obstetrician Gynaecologist at the Catholic Hospital, Battor in the North Tongu District of the Volta Region of Ghana.