Cervical Cancer is India’s second most common cancer, affecting more than 1.23 lakh women each year. Around 77,000 Indian women die of the disease. Despite being the only preventable cancers, awareness about effective and reliable screening tools remains poor.
The fact that there is stigma, fear and lack of active platforms that drive conversations about India’s need for cervical cancer screening programmes, both at the public health and consumer level, has compelled Roche Diagnostics India to launch the #BeYourOwnShero campaign.
And who better than Vidya Balan, celebrated for pioneering a change in the portrayal of women in Bollywood and an epitome of courage, could be the voice that drives this cause.
#BeYourOwnShero is an integrated campaign with social and digital advocacy initiatives, engaging influencers and medical experts, as well as partnerships and on-ground activities to educate women about cervical cancer facts, break myths about vaccination versus screening, as well as inform them about the gold standard HPV test.
The campaign includes the launch of 4 Hero films across various digital platforms – Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn and a dedicated resource hub where interested women can sign up for more information on HPV screening.
The campaign is a part of Roche’s long-term commitment and an ongoing initiative to drive meaningful change through partnerships, communication, funding and action to help close the gaps in women’s health and reduce the burden of cervical cancer in India which accounts for nearly 25% of global cases.
As the first leg of the campaign, Roche Diagnostics India introduced free HPV screening for all women employees and women family members of male employees in the required age group (35-65 years). While 82% of the eligible employees opted for screening, Roche Diagnostics India set forth to expand its efforts in bringing down the burden of cervical cancer in India.
The two Hero films launched so far have garnered around 3 million views and have been trending on FaceBook and YouTube. Roche Diagnostics India’s follower growth on social media has increased by 15% in the month of March and its YouTube follower growth has been more than 80%.
The company has also partnered with the Cancer Awareness, Prevention and Early Detection Trust (CAPED) to drive awareness about HPV screening amongst working women from Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad & Bangalore. As part of this initiative, CAPED will reach out to 10,000 women across these 5 metros and conduct around 100 workshops.
Roche has also engaged with leading medical experts such as Dr Hrishikesh Pai, President, Federation of Obstetricians & Gynecologists of India (FOGSI), Dr Rishma Pai, honorary consultant gynaecologist at Lilavati, Jaslok and Hinduja Health Care Hospitals, Mumbai, Dr Nandita Palshetkar, Co-founder, Bloom IVF, and Dr Priya Ganesh, Chairperson ONCOLOGY Committee FOGSI to build advocacy at clinical level.
Roche has also introduced the #MyStoryForChange initiative – a unique platform for women to share stories that capture inadequacies or shortcomings in healthcare access. So far, Roche has collected more than 500 stories from women across the globe.
Talking about the reason that inspired her to join the campaign, Vidya Balan said, “An average Indian woman wakes up every morning to fight the smaller battles of life. Getting her kids ready for school, running to catch a bus; going to work and keeping life afloat. But in this daily routine she seldom thinks of her own health and wellbeing. The reason I joined the campaign is to educate women across the country about the benefits of timely screening for cervical cancer. For example, I was stunned to know that this is the only cancer that is preventable if screened on time. It is important that we women challenge the status quo and take necessary steps to focus on our health and create the much-needed systemic change in healthcare outcomes.”
Manjira Sharma, Head of Communication & CSR, Roche Diagnostics & Neighbouring Markets said, “Our #BeYourOwnShero campaign focuses on educating women and inspiring them to take control of their health and fight debilitating diseases such as cervical cancer which is preventable. We are extremely happy to share that our dream to end cervical cancer in India is supported by Vidya Balan and institutional partners such as the CAPED to further strengthen our efforts.”
The WHO has been committed to eliminating Cervical Cancer by 2030 by focusing on vaccination, screening and treatment and recommends cervical cancer screening through a high performance HPV DNA test. Women between the ages of 30-65 years are recommended to be screened and the test needs to be repeated every 5-10 years. In fact, screening even just twice in a lifetime once at 35 years and then at 45 years is beneficial.
By educating women and inspiring them to take control of their health, the #BeYourOwnShero campaign is a step towards creating the much-needed systemic and behavioural change in prioritising health and changing the healthcare trajectory.
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