Almost half of new cancer diagnoses and two-thirds of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. In many developing countries, the stigma associated with cancer is a barrier to treatment and contributes to the high mortality rate. Although cancer stigma was recognized at the international level as a huge barrier to caring for afflicted people, few organizations were doing anything about it.
In 2007, LIVESTRONG Foundation launched an ambitious program to identify the extent of the problem and do something about it. They developed the Cancer Anti-Stigma Initiative, with South Africa as the first pilot nation.
Because of its extensive experience in capacity building and working in developing countries throughout the world, JSI was selected as the implementing partner.
Major components of the initiative included:
- Defining the problem – JSI conducted a baseline knowledge, attitudes, and practices survey in the initiative’s three targeted areas: Soweto, Khayelitsha, Mdantsane. Eight hundred people responded.
- Working with mass media – Positive and informative cancer messages, such as survivor stories, dissemination of video versions of these stories for use at South African health clinics, and public service announcements reached millions of South Africans.
- Community outreach – In all three targeted areas, 61 door-to-door volunteers disseminated basic information about the disease, names and addresses of screening sites, and contact information for local cancer organizations. A year later, approximately 5,500 households and more than 10,000 people had been reached.
- Organizing special events – The initiative was introduced to communities through fun, non-threatening events, including an aerobics marathon, music concert, and health fairs. About 3,500 people attended these events and the media generated helped to increase the visibility of the anti-stigma campaign.
Almost 10,000 people participated in a World Cancer Day rally in Mexico City to increase awareness and reduce stigma.
In December 2011, the results of the collaboration were announced. Awareness about cancer had been raised. Underserved people were empowered. Communities were educated. Myths, fears, and misperceptions were dispelled.
Further evidence of the success of this initiative and the collaboration between partners is that JSI’s cancer anti-stigma work with LIVESTRONG continued and JSI became the implementing partner for LIVESTRONG’s Comparte tu Historia Project in Mexico.
Learn how JSI and LIVESTRONG increased awareness and reduced stigma in South Africa and in Mexico.
Watch video testimonials of cancer survivors developed by the program.