Journey towards a Kenya without Cancer
Amidst the emergence of many cancer organizations, the Kenya Cancer Association (KENCASA) has remained true in fulfilling its purpose effectively in the areas of education, care giving, service delivery, research and advocacy.
As the leading cancer organization in Kenya, KENCASA has been doing the life-saving work for over 20 years and continues to raise standards in the lives of patients and caregivers support as the continuing need to increase access, affordability, patient-centeredness; high quality cancer care in the cancer control continuum gains demand.
The core mandate of KENCASA puts a focus on Cancer Education and Awareness, Research and Advocacy in the cancer field, Cancer Patient support and also mobilizing stakeholders including the Government to prioritize Cancer in their planning, programming and budgeting. KENCASA prides itself in coordinating and providing leadership to efforts aimed at cancer control and reducing the burden of cancer in Kenya.
By employing different resource mobilization efforts, KENCASA has been able to reach out to different partners to join efforts. Significantly, KENCASA organizes and coordinates Relay for Life Event – a fundraising event towards the fight against cancer every year, an activity that has attracted over 4000 participants after 2 years. Through Relay for Life, KENCASA supports access to treatment by helping cancer patients to access National Health Insurance Fund covers among other Cancer Patient Support activities.
At Relay for Life Kenya, participants come in teams, engage in an overnight event walking around a track while at the same time raising funds for a cause. ‘Each year, KENCASA identifies a cancer need that required attention,’ says Deborah Modi, Executive Director, KENCASA. The 24hour walk is in line with the life of a cancer patient where cancer never sleeps. A patient is ever battling side effects and physical changes within their bodies which takes time before a patient sets in with reality. KENCASA has managed to have two successful Relays where funds raise have helped the organization have sustainable programs that benefit patients on a long term span of time.
Pink Sparkle event was the first beneficiaries of proceeds of Relay for Life 2015 kitty. The event involved gathering a group of 50 needy women who had under gone mastectomy and were in need of prosthesis to redeem their self-esteem. Most of these women affected lacked knowledge of how to take time off to heal their wound as well as using the prosthesis.
With a new strategic plan running 2016 to 2018, KENCASA is in the process of implementing effective programs that address issues around cancer. Through the Feed a Patient Program at Kenyatta National Hospital, KENCASA reaches out to more than 500 patients in a month, as they attend their chemotherapy sessions. KENCASA is also reaching out to corporates through an education and awareness program; Learn at Lunch that seeks to educate and sensitize awareness among corporate leaders, their employees and stakeholders.
Learn at Lunch is a basic cancer education activity by KENCASA targeting corporates. Supported by proceeds from Relay for Life event, the program provides cancer education to staff during a one hour lunch break at the workplace or any other convenient time. The staff are trained on selected topics including; a brief overview about cancer, risk factors, common cancers and early detection as well as treatment options. After a successive training, KENCASA offers two volunteer staff an opportunity to attend a full day seminar on `Psychosocial support for cancer at the workplace`. The activity is voluntary to attend by any of the staff.
Different organizations have benefited from this exercise including GetBucks, a microfinance institution and KKrew, a faith based movement. Most corporate employees are receptive to this initiative since many have been affected directly or indirectly but due to stigma associated with the disease, they are not able to share with those close to them. Employers are also increasingly becoming concerned with the health status and well-being of their employees. Significantly, KENCASA is also in the process of supporting development of curriculum and teaching materials that can be used by caregivers, patients and all affected people.
In collaboration with Roche limited, a pharmaceutical company, KENCASA ran a Herceptin Patient Access Program (H-PAP) for one and a half years to assist patients continue and complete treatment on the Herceptin (Trastuzumab) drug. This is one of the private public partnerships that benefited HER 2+ breast cancer patients to navigate treatment with ease by providing the drug at a subsidized rate for participating patients .The type of treatment provided was targeted therapy to target specific receptor, in this case Her2+ breast cancer which is considered aggressive because its tumour grows and spreads quickly. The program has since grown and is now been implemented in partnership with the Government of Kenya.
The Kenya Cancer Association is now run through a fulltime and functional secretariat and a Board of Management. The current board chairperson is Mrs. Ann Korir who has been an advocate for cancer for more than fifteen years. She is a Public Health Researcher working at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in the area of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). The Secretariat is headed by the Executive Director Mrs. Deborah Modi who has worked for various organizations holding different portfolios as team leader, consultant, trainer, assistant manager and program coordinator in the health and development sector of Kenya.
Even as other cancer organisations emerge, KENCASA envisions remaining true to reducing the cancer burden in the country by focusing mainly on areas of cancer prevention and control such as cancer education and awareness creation, research, advocacy and cancer patient support beyond Nairobi and its environs. But in order for the impact to be felt further KENCASA continues to seek for the support of many more partners and stakeholders in a Vision of a Kenya without Cancer.