Radha Acharya, from the Sri Sseva Foundation, organised a free health check-up camp, exclusively for women, under the banner of “Healthy women, happy family”, on February 19, at the Hemkund Sahib Gurdwara, Rishikesh.
The camp provided a variety of health check-ups, like a free breast check-up with breast light, a bone density check-up, a free haemoglobin check, a blood pressure and weight check, deworming and a diet a chart. All of this was preceded by an informative talk on women’s health, specifically a talk on breast and cervical cancer, by Dr Sumita Prabhakar, Senior Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, at CMI Hospital, Dehradun.
Dr Prabhakar spoke on the importance of women taking the initiative to get themselves checked regular for breast and cervical cancer.
She also educated the attendees on how to regularly self-examine themselves, so they can catch the signs of breast cancer early.
Speaking to Team TGC, Dr Prabhakar shed some light on the level of
importance, a camp of this kind, holds in a state like Uttarakhand, where medical facilities, especially in remote areas and smaller towns, are not up to the mark.
“Health infrastructure, as far as cancer is concerned, is really poor in India. We have 300 cancer hospitals in total across the country, and for all of Garhwal, we have just one cancer hospital, so there is a lot of burden. We have one specialist per 2000 people. The onus lies on the society, NGOs, and women themselves for screening and prevention,” she said.
She went on to add that, “So far as cancer is concerned, we know that it’s a difficult road. The treatment is complicated, and it recurs, so we want to make women aware about the role of prevention; and the two most common cancers in women – breast and cervical cancer – if they are picked up in the pre-cancerous stage they can actually be prevented.”
Speaking about the state of affairs in Uttarakhand, she said, “Uttarakhand, as a region, tops in cervical cancer, as we don’t have any penetration of pap smear.”
When asked whether the reason why women do not get themselves checked is not just a lack of awareness and education, but also because there is a certain level of stigma associated with these diseases, as they target the female sexual and reproductive organs, she concurred.
“There is definitely a taboo. Women are very shy when it comes to talking about breasts, about the uterus,” said Dr Prabhakar.
“A lot of women think that simply getting their sugar levels and thyroid tested is sufficient; with tests like mammograms and pap smears, women feel like people will judge them. Their friends might think that they have some problem or they’re promiscuous, hence, they have to go to the gynaecologist at this age and get these tests done. We have to come out of that mindset,” she added.
Drawing a comparison between a developing nation like India, which is still caught in a constant struggle between tradition and modernity, and other first world nations, which have highly organised and developed health care programmes, she said,
“In other countries, young girls who are sexually active are aware about the human papillomavirus (HPV) and how to prevent it, they come forward for cervical cancer vaccination, they talk about contraception; but in our country, we just want to keep our eyes closed. We are fine with unmarried girls getting an abortion done, but we won’t talk to our children about contraception.”
The event organiser, Radha Acharya, was also of the same mindset.
According to her, it is extremely important for women, especially those belonging to the lower strata of society, to come
These women, along with their husbands, are the secondary, and more often than not, the primary bread winners for their families.
“In a game of chess, the queen has all the moves, and the king only one. Similarly, I believe, that women are queens, we take on multiple roles. We are mothers, wives, daughters in law; if the queen is dead, you lose the game,” she said, talking about the importance of women’s health.
She also shared with Team TGC how it was her personal experience which lead to her organising this camp.
A fractured foot, and complete rest for 6 months made her realise how important is it for women to keep their health in check; a healthy woman, according to her is the sign of a healthy home.
The camp was a great success, as approximately 300 women availed the free health services, with almost 50 women being referred for further mammography tests.
Members of the Lioness Club, and the Lions Club, Rishikesh volunteered at the camp and looked after the needs of the attendees.
Some volunteers were there for personal reasons, and some, because they understood the importance of women’s health.
It was also extremely heartening to see women from less privileged backgrounds at the camp.
Team TGC spoke with one such young girl, Priya Thakur, who was attending the camp with her mother.
According to Priya and her mother, only if they look after themselves, can their future be secure.
However, local residents, from more privileged backgrounds also chose to be a part of the event.
Ruchi Bhandari Aggarwal, who attended the camp with her friend Sonam Jain, was extremely impressed with the fact that a camp of this kind had been organised in Rishikesh.
Having resided in bigger cities, where women are more aware of their health needs, Ruchi said that women in smaller towns like Rishikesh still need to be educated about such issues.
“I think camps like these help women come out of their houses, their comfort zones and encourage them to get themselves checked. Such camps are certainly benefiting women in smaller cities,” Ruchi said.
The camp witnessed several known faces from the city becoming a part of the initiative, with Mrs Charu Kothari, attending as chief guest, along with Mrs Urmil Pokhriyal, Mrs Amita Deepak Jatav, Mrs Sadhana Sharma, Mrs Lalita
Krishnaswami and Mrs Meeta Chatterjee, attending the camp as guests of honour.
Dr Prabhakar, with her excellent team of doctors from Dehradun patiently attended to the women present and made sure to answer all their needs.
With women from Rishikesh turning out in such huge numbers, Radha Acharya and her foundation can be rest assured of the success of other such camps in the future, which they hope to organise.