Cancer cases in India increased at an average annual rate of 1.1-2 per cent from 2010-2019. The growth rates are among the global highest, according to the analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington School of Medicine published in JAMA journal December 30, 2021.
ccording to the National Cancer Registry Programme, as many as 1,392,179 people in India had cancer in 2020. Shortage of trained manpower, insufficient state-of-art facilities, insufficient early detection facilities especially in rural areas, absence of proper data for cancer mortalities are some of the challenges that India faces in tackling the disease.
Pharma company Pfizer is working towards solving some of these challenges as part of its corporate social responsibility. Launched in February 2021, Project Aastha is supported by CSR of Pfizer in partnership with the organisation Doctors For You to aid cancer patients during the course of their diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation phase.
What is Project Aastha?
The project establishes a support system that facilitates best available care for oncology patients through improved treatment, guidance, linking with donors and so on. The project also has a functioning helpline number, ensuring rapid and effective response to patients (Help-Desk Number: 07447179374).
Project Aastha has assisted over 6,00,000 patients in 5 hospitals around the country: Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai; B. Baruah Hospital, Guwahati; Homi Bhabha Hospital, Varanasi; Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Patna; and The Gujarat Cancer & Research Institute, Ahmedabad. The objectives of Project Aastha are to: improve cancer patient care during treatment, link patients with various government schemes, provide guidance, and establish linkages for patients to opt for financial support through trust, civil society, or individual donors, and establish a helpdesk at cancer hospitals.
Latest helpdesk for cancer patients
The latest development in the project is a helpdesk launched at the Regional Cancer Center (RCC), Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Medical College, Raipur. Hon. Health Minister of Chhattisgarh, Shri T. Singh Deo, inaugurated it. RCC is one of the largest cancer hospitals in the region that caters to patients from underprivileged backgrounds and those from remote tribal areas in Odisha and Chhattisgarh. The hospital provides free cancer treatment services to all patients.
What will it do?
The helpdesk, set up in the R Block of the hospital, will support patients with registration; travel booking information and support; local accommodation guidance and linkages; dietary counselling between and after chemotherapy, emotional and mental health counselling over a helpline or in person; counselling and referrals in case patients have co-morbid conditions; inter and intrahospital shifting and wheelchair management; referral of cancer patients to other field specialists for non-cancer-related medical issues, and follow-ups with registered patients.
The goal of the partnership between Pfizer and Doctors For You is to set up Cancer-Care support services in 10 cancer hospitals in 8 states across India. RCC is now the sixth hospital in the country to have this service. At the launch, Hon. Health Minister of Chhattisgarh, Shri T. Singh Deo, said, “Over the last 5 years, the burden of cancer has been growing in our state and it is a matter of great concern for all of us. We welcome Project Aastha to Chhattisgarh and thank the partners for giving us the critical support we need to manage cancer in our state.”