After a very successful pilot in Punjab, Philips Healthcare’s flagship Women’s Healthcare Outreach Mobile program, Asha Jyoti, is being showcased in Delhi as a great example of a public-private partnership to address the issue of accessibility of healthcare in India. The program, run with close collaboration between Philips Healthcare, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), and RADAID was launched on 22 April 2012 and has successfully screened more than 4000 women in less than 20 months.
Asha Jyoti is a population-based screening program of women aged between 40 and 60 years, which aims to ensure early detection of breast cancer, cervical cancer and osteoporosis, even before the individual has any signs or symptoms. It was established as a model for preventive healthcare for semi-urban and rural areas in northern India and involved the creation of a special mobile outreach van with imaging technology and clinical referral services to efficiently and effectively address multiple care needs. The initial goal of this program was to screen 500 women in first six months and 2000 women every year thereafter. However, it has already successfully achieved its goal to provide breast cancer, cervical cancer, and osteoporosis screening to more than 4000 women.
“Our vision for Asha Jyoti was to develop a high quality, mobile screening facility to provide decentralized primary healthcare on people’s doorsteps, to detect three major diseases effecting women’s health earlier, and to provide diagnostic follow-up and therapy to the community;” commented Dr. N. Khandelwal, Professor and Head, Department of Radiodiagnosis, PGIMER. “A multidisciplinary team of health care specialists from PGIMER, formulated this program, and the teams from Philips Healthcare and RAD-AID supported the initiative to make it a reality and ensure that we reached the underserved population in the northern part of India.”
In addition to being a model for integrating women’s health services, the collaboration is a unique public-private partnership between government (PGIMER) entities, non-profit non-governmental organization (RAD-AID) and the private sector (Philips Healthcare). To make the Asha Jyoti program work, PGIMER delivers the clinical services, RAD-AID is providing educational training and program planning support to health workers and staff and Philips has donated all the equipment and also donated the entire van which was designed and built in India with local suppliers. Philips India is now working on extending the program to other parts of India as well.
“While the Punjab chapter has been extremely successful, we hope that this program can be extended to other parts of India, so that we are able to help save more lives by detecting cancer at an early stage,” added Dr. Khandelwal.
The design of the Asha Jyoti van itself is exemplary, keeping in mind the need to reach the remotest areas of India. Built by Philips Healthcare, the van uses trailer with double axle to meet the tough Indian road conditions. It has a horse-cart structure so that the truck can negotiate in narrower turns as compared to single bus-like chassis. The van has been compartmentalized in radiation area and non-radiation area. The workflow has been optimized through this division such that time taken during cervical examination is equivalent to time taken for breast and bone scans – this allows screening of two women simultaneously. The van is supported by air suspension to avoid damage to the equipment. The van has three options of power sources – external power supply, 30kV generator and a set of batteries. The robust van design has allowed use of the van across cities and rural areas around Chandigarh. The mammograph unit on board is a digital mammograph that obviates the need of any film chemistry and provides highest resolution images. It also provides only a fraction of usual mammography radiation because of special detection technology used in the Philips mammography unit. The cervical cancer screening is being done with a new technique. The usual screening using acetic acid (vinegar) is pictured using a colposcope at various intervals and using green filter. These pictures are cross-checked by gynecologists at PGIMER for validation of the findings of the colposcopy technologist on board.