This World cancer day, AstraZeneca, a science-led biopharmaceutical company, and Plan India, an NGO striving to improve the lives of millions of children and young people, signed an MoU to expand its ‘Young Health Programme’ (YHP) in the state of Karnataka after tremendous success over the past 10 years in Delhi and Tamil Nadu.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in India account for 62% of all deaths and 48% of preventable premature deaths. It is suggested that more than 2/3 of premature deaths can be linked back to NCD risk factors like tobacco use, physical inactivity, or poor diet, that were first established in adolescence. Present at this virtual event, Gagandeep Singh, Managing Director AstraZeneca India said, “YHP is one of our key global community investment initiatives specifically focused on empowering young people with the knowledge to make healthier choices so that they will become healthier as adults. With Plan India, we are working locally, nationally, and globally to deliver accurate health information and fight the myths and stigma around NCDs. Cancer is one of the most common NCDs so it gives me great pride to announce this expansion to Bangalore as one of our first target regions in the state on this World Cancer Day.”
YHP aims to reduce the uptake of unhealthy behaviours in young people to improve their health outcomes as adults and help address the growing burden of NCDs on health systems. YHP was first launched in Delhi in 2010 and over the past decade, has directly reached more than 460,000 young people with health information and trained more than 7,800 Peer Educators who have delivered numerous health promotion activities including theme-based competition drawing, debates, quizzes, writing, sports, plays and storytelling. YHP established 15 ‘Health Information Centres’ in Delhi, 2 in Chennai and will be launching 3 in the communities around Mahadevpura, Dasarahalli and Yelahanka in Bangalore. In this first year in Karnataka, YHP aims to reach 50,000 adolescents and build a strong foundation to scale up the project in the years to come.
Present at the event was Dr Ravi Kumar, Senior Regional Director, MOHFW, Govt of India who addressed the audience and spoke about the role of awareness and early intervention in defeating cancer: “We are all dealing with a pandemic for the past two years which made it natural for us all to focus on curbing its spread as much as possible. But equal focus is needed towards generating right awareness and understanding about lifestyle related diseases and adolescents is the right group to target if we need to safeguard our future. I am glad that organisations are joining hands towards the same to propel knowledge on this subject across more and more parts of the country.
Mohammed Asif, Executive Director, Plan India, said, “Many adolescents and young people in our country are looking for information and knowledge on health and wellness so that they can improve the quality of life. Since 2010, Plan India’s Young Health Programme, supported by AstraZeneca, has been providing adolescents and youth from the urban and rural poor families with quality information and knowledge on non-communicable diseases and better life skills and choices. This is primarily to help enhance responsive health-seeking behaviour and thus lead disease free, happy and successful life. On the occasion of World Cancer Day we once again focus on our resolve to support children, adolescents and young people and their parents and care givers on healthy behaviours and be protected from cancer. Having seen significant improvements in the communities in Delhi, Tamil Nadu, we are confident that with AstraZeneca, we will be able to make a difference in Bengaluru too through children’s and youth participation, community intervention and engagement.”
In a direction to create a multi-faceted impact, AstraZeneca is complementing YHP with ‘New Normal Same Cancer’ and ‘Ganga Godavari Initiative’ that focuses on creating a mass scale Cancer related awareness with the help of ambassadors and partners such as Indian cancer Society and Banaras Hindu University. Under these initiatives, multiple cancer screening camps are conducted in the remote areas of the country where not many facilities are available.
“These camps encourage preventive health-check-ups,” said Mr. Singh. “Once a beneficiary from these camps is found at risk, they are advised to nearest medical facilities where appropriate treatment can be provided at minimal costs. All these initiatives combined together will hopefully help us bring about a sustained change in prevention and management of cancer in the long run.”
Globally, YHP has reached more than 8 million young people in more than 30 countries around the world. In 2020, AstraZeneca made a global commitment of $35 million to renew the YHP for another 5 years and set new and ambitious goals. From 2021 to 2025, the YHP aims to reach 10 million more young people with health information in countries around the world.