Assam Cancer Care Foundation organises cancer walkathon on February 17, 2019

The walkathon was aimed at creating awareness about rising cancer rates in Assam and to enhance participation of the public in early screening and tobacco deterrence

BACKGROUND

Guwahati: ‘The nerve centre of Assam’s economy, polity and its largest urban metropolis’
Guwahati(Pragjyotishpura in ancient Assam,Gauhati in the colonial era) is the largest city in the of Assam and also the largest urban area in Northeast India. A major riverine port city and one of the fastest growing cities in India, Guwahati is situated on the south bank of the Brahmaputra. Dispur, the capital of Assam, is in the circuit city region located within Guwahati and is the seat of the Government of Assam. TheGuwahati Municipal Corporation, the city's local government, administers an area of 328 square kilometre (127 square mile), while the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority is the planning and development body of greater Guwahati Metropolitan Area.

Guwahati is the centre for the best institutions in Assam, including public hospitals. The State Cancer Institute is one of the apex cancer centres under Assam Cancer Care Foundation (ACCF), which is being converted into a state-of-the-art L1 centre. To mark its 2nd anniversary, the State Cancer Institute collaborated with Assam Cancer Care Foundation to organise a cancer walkathon. The walkathon was aimed at creating awareness about rising cancer rates in Assam and to enhance participation of the public in early screening and tobacco deterrence.

The 5-km walk started at the State Cancer Institute, Guwahati, crossed the Bhangagarh flyover towards Ulubari and further took a U-turn to come back. The State Cancer Institute had organised a walkathon last year but wanted to scale the intensity of the event this year. ACCF self-budgeted the whole event and created a module to enhance participation in terms of numbers and discrimination. ACCF was also in charge of the creatives, refreshments and management of the entire event, which saw a participation of 2,500+ people.

OBJECTIVES

Guwahati city is the centre of all major initiatives in Assam and lays the seed for driving macro policy change in Assam. With a sprawling population of 10 lakh, Guwahati is at the crux of public activities and setting trends for the state. With the capital within the city, it is the nucleus of international events, state conferences and public conclaves. Further, it is a hub of institutions and colleges with a rich cultural diversity of students from different backgrounds and communities.

The main objective driving the largest cancer walkathon was to generate awareness among people in Guwahati about the magnitude of the problem in their community and prevention measures. However, the activity was aimed at making the participants more than just receivers of information but participants in furthering it. The cancer walkathon was aimed at making students and public active members of an anti-tobacco community. The team see the participation as a necessary next step after awareness, wherein the community takes a personal and a public pledge to work against cancer and tobacco. The engagement of students and common people brings with it a sensibility to drive change.

PROGRAMME DETAILS

The preparations for the walkathon started immediately after cancer awareness event in Morigaon (Feb 6-9). While initial brainstorming had taken place, the finalisation of the deliverables started with the conference and meeting with the superintendent of the State Cancer Institute, K Bhuyan.

It was decided that the State Cancer Institute would be applying for all the permissions for the event and will invite the guest invitees. Everything else apart from that, including creatives, numbers of participants and follow-ups of the permissions was to be done by ACCF. The team started out by making a master worksheet where the creatives and invitee updates were separated and responsibility was delegated among the whole team. The event managers and baseline management were asked to manage operations and a plan of action to achieve targets was decided. Over the course of the next few days, ACCF reached out to every college in the city through NSS and ensured that it had lists of the students taking part. It did the same for NGOs, NHM staff, nurses, army members and survivors' network.

While creatives were being finalised, T-shirts were distributed to the list of participants to avoid chaos on the main day. The night before the actual event was spent in installing all the creatives in their respective places and creating backups for bleak weather conditions.

PROGRAMME OUTPUT

  • 2,500+ participants
  • 35+ institutions participated
  • 39 media publications
  • All participants eligible to free screening of common cancers in the State Cancer Institute; approval sought and functional

Participating institutions

Colleges NGOs and partners
Handique ACCF nurses Doctors For You
B Baruah State Cancer Institute Sambandh Health Foundation
AINE Nursing National Health Mission CRPF Para Medical
LCB College CML beneficiaries Academy Point NGO
Narengi Anchalik Mahavidyalaya PAG survivors Grameen Sahara
West Guwahati Commerce College Tata Trusts research team Rotaract + Rotary
B Baruahh Women's Cell Digital Nerve Centre – TCS Utsah NGO
GCC BBCI CML employees
Dispur College SCI patients Ujjevit NGO
Arya Vidyapeeth   Matt Macdonald
Hiteswar Saikia College   Piramal
Pandu College   DESH
Tata Institute of Social Sciences    
NSS staff    
RNC    

 

CHALLENGES

  • The biggest challenge was to administer the 2,500+ crowd, both in terms of making it inclusive and handling them once they turn out for the event. There was a personnel crunch and a limited operating area.
  • Because of limited networks in Guwahati, it became the team's responsibility to personally invite participants and talk to institutions and make them aware of ACCF's efforts. The team physically went to the CRPF office, NHM office, hospitals and colleges to invite the walkathon participants.
  • Following up and delivering the T-shirts was also the team's responsibility since it wanted to ensure numbers. The efforts to make it inclusive meant the team endeavoured to call rural NGOs about 30km from Guwahati. This further became a problem as the walkathon was very early in the morning. The biggest challenge that remains is to convert the participants into cancer-aware citizens and make them undergo screenings.
  • Primarily, the walkathon was full of young people. While that is a good sign for the future, screenings and their advantages need to reach the parents and the guardians of the students who are the target 30+ crowd.
  • The challenge was also in the gap between the lists that was received and the actual participation. ACCF was constantly working towards reducing the reasons for people to not show up on the actual day.
  • The involvement of ACCF's employees and their low turnout on the day of the walkathon.

 

LEARNING AND RECOMMENDATIONS

  • The biggest learning was that for events such as walkathon, collecting people was possible and chaos can be avoided through planning. It is by keeping everyone in the same page and dividing responsibility that the team could achieve this feat. The biggest recommendations include ways in which such an event can become grander and can be conducted more smoothly.
  • The number of people attending can be maximised if the team networks more in schools and in the immediate rural areas of the city. This can happen by making principals aware of ACCF's work and developing trust in NGOs and SHGs across Kamrup (rural and urban).
  • In a walkathon, the numbers seem more if everyone walks together. So, the team must find a way for people to walk one behind the other and in close-knit groups the next time.
  • In terms of event management, there were a lot of delays and last moment finalisations. A clear vision and execution will lead to less conflict and work getting completed before time. Also, the event managers can have a stronger team on ground.
  • ACCF employees can contribute more to the success of the event through their own ideas and presence.
  • One of the success parameters, apart from participation and media publication, could be quick feedback from the participants — giving a satisfaction rating out of 10 about the event.

 

FEEDBACK

Team Academy Point of Guwahati
It was a great experience walking to beat cancer....and also everyone should fight against cancer... we do support the cause and we are always with the victims of cancer...or people fighting against cancer. The overall experience was awesome. This kind of awareness is needed for the future welfare of cancer patients. The walkathon organised by the State Cancer Institute in collaboration with Assam Cancer Care Foundation was a huge success.

Rotaract Club of Guwahati East
The experience was an amazing one wherein everyone tried to share cancer-related quotes through various means, viz placards, banners, flex, etc.

With this kind of walkathons, we can encourage cancer patients to fight against it and also, we can make people aware of the symptoms and causes of cancer. It was a walk of approximately 5km wherein around 4,000 participants took part. With this, we could pass on the message to the sufferers to fight bravely.

Utsah
Our constant support is with those brave-hearted persons and also with the foundations whose motive is to spread awareness and remedies for cancer in the society. Free cancer screening being another initiative which brings in more awareness about the effects of tobacco in our life. Good luck and congratulations to the entire team of Assam Cancer Care Foundation for such a noble cause. By doing such marathons we can encourage people who are fighting cancer ...Make sure that they won't give up and they lead a happy life.

Ujjevit
Yes, it was really a great experience. Cancer awareness is needed for the welfare of cancer patients. We do support the victims and wish to be with them hand in hand. This was our first time participating in such a noble activity and we are really happy to help in making people aware of cancer. We request victims to never give up on themselves and fight bravely. We will always be a supporter and strive to enable cancer screenings in areas we work.

Rotary Club of Guwahati
We were invited first by SCI and then by ACCF. The walkathon was great and the numbers were unbelievable. The walk in the morning was well organised and the lecture was helpful to know all about cancer and the fight that we must undertake. This awareness was very much needed as cancer can nowadays be diagnosed at an early stage and there are several ways to beat cancer. And so, today's crowd was wonderful; people were enthusiastic; it was great to see, especially, the majority of youth coming together to spread awareness.

Matt Macdonald
As people who are in civil construction, it made us realise the importance of awareness and prevention as a step towards complete healthcare. We wished to see more employees from ACCF itself.

 

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