A preventable disease, cervical cancers claims approximately 67,477 women’s deaths yearly according to a National Health Portal report. A total of 436.76 million women aged 15 years and older are at risk of developing cervical cancer and yet, cervical cancer isn’t talked about in the mainstream keeping the issue of women’s health at bay.

One of the main reasons according to Pompy Sridhar, India Director of MSD for Mothers, tells SheThePeople.TV is the taboo around the disease. “Cervical cancer can also happen at the age of 10 and at that point, it is very difficult to convince the girl’s parents to get it checked because of cultural issues. It has its own taboo which is why people don’t come up and talk about it very openly because it is related to the female’s sexual life which is why people feel shy about coming up and talking about it,” notes Sridhar whose organisation aims to take on global health challenges and works towards eliminating cervical cancer.

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Government’s intent on addressing women’s health

Sridhar has worked closely with the government by being the advisor for the National Health Insurance Scheme earlier. She spoke about the government’s determination in addressing the worries of women’s health and she said, “There are lots to do. While the government is well intended and they have been able to eradicate some of the other diseases through enormous immunization drives. So, I am sure that if they put their mind behind it then they can eradicate cervical cancer as well.”

“Generally, we don’t give priority to women’s health in our own families. It is her education, marriage etc. that take precedence and after she gives birth then her focus is on the child and forgets her own health. Most of the women themselves ignore their health. When it comes to policy-makers, they need to do a lot more than they already are. There are several countries who have made immunization compulsory and it’s part of their essential vaccination list then why can’t we do the same in our country?” adds Sridhar.

There are few states that have taken concerted steps to address cervical cancer among women like Punjab and Sikkim who had to deal with the issue of increasing cervical cancer. “The problem is there everywhere but it is about who recognizes it,” she asserts. MSD for Mothers works with the private sector to complement the government’s initiatives by facilitating both the service providers and the people who require assistance.

“Generally, we don’t give priority to women’s health in our own families. It is her education, marriage etc. that take precedence and after she gives birth then her focus is on the child and forgets her own health. Most of the women themselves ignore their health”

Breakthrough initiative against maternal mortality rates

Since the other major area of work for MSD for Mothers is also reducing maternal mortality rate, Sridhar assessed the biggest breakthrough that they were able to achieve which was controlling it. “Maternal mortality rates came down drastically about two decades ago when women were started to be sent for institutional deliveries. This helped us progress much more than the other South Asian countries like Bangladesh etc. But then we started to push women to hospitals for deliveries, at hospitals when the care wasn’t up to the mark than those cases landed up with complications and problems.”

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“So, our attempt now is to focus on that 24-hour-round care delivery system which is the most critical time. We know that women’s bodies are changing. A lot of women now come with hypertension-related diseases which is the number one killer of women now as compared to post-partum haemorrhage,” shares Sridhar.

Picture credit: women planet

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