MANY many years ago I lost my dad. It is not something that I wish to be highlight but I am constantly asking myself on what could I have done to prevent his early departure. It has been almost 20 years and every single day does not make it harder but I question myself on what if I had done this or what if I had done that.
Now that I only have one parent left my every day is spent on thinking of ways to make my mother's life a bit more enjoyable. She will turn 70 this year and I am so glad for this opportunity to still have my mum with me now when she is enjoying her twilight years. I thank God for this and wish that I could help other women to ensure their mum stays with them for as long as they can. Don't get me wrong I am not flaunting this fact merely saying that when we have or parents with us we should be grateful for them and if possible try and help them enjoy their time with us and often this means that we have to make healthy choices like ensuring that there is time for physical exercise, our menus are healthy at home and that are not too stressed. In this instant society we live in where everything is at the press of a button, the danger is in ensuring that security and comfort is balanced with good healthy living.
In 2012,the Ministry of Health in realising the need to help citizens of Fiji improve our health, launched the wellness program where people are encouraged to live healthy by eating healthy, exercising regularly and ensuring that we live stress free lives though making informed choices. This has been greatly received in make communities but while Fiji is living healthy, another evil that is often left unspoken and not given priority is left unnoticed.
Irum Sunderji in his report "An elective in Paradise" mentioned that" despite being preventable, cervical cancer is the most common neoplasm amongst women in the Pacific and the average life expectancy after diagnosis is as little as six months". If this is preventable my question then is why is it that there is not enough emphasis on this.
Is it the responsibility of the Ministry of Health? Is it because the government policy on women's health is not strengthened? Is it because the service delivery needs to be strengthened? Is it the because women are ignorant which has led to their not being unaware of services provided?
Sunderji also recorded some women were afraid of the testing or pap smear procedures or some had not received results from previous tests so chose to abstain from the process.
Women have claimed these reasons as restraining factors to their being tested but now the Fiji Nurses Association has piloted another program which targets women's health. The VIA program which has been piloted in the Central Division namely the Korovou and Makoi health divisions.
This program is a visual inspection process and is an easy simple test to help in the early diagnosis of cervical cancer. It is very simple procedure and women need only to be willing participants and the process can be carried out even in the comfort of your homes. Women can be screened and informed instantly of their status, that is whether there is need for further treatment or whether they can safely assume that they have no instances of cervical cancer.
In the last 18 months the nurses involved in the project namely a project manager and three project nurses have been involved in training nurses and doctors to perform the VIA test in the pilot areas. As a result 2562 tests were done on women. Of this 20562, 84 women were then referred to the CWM Hospital, nine were then tested as needing further treatment.
If the step to test had not been taken by the Fiji Nurses Association, women in the Makoi and Korovou areas would not have known or realised the need to have tests.
In the "Cervical cancer incidence and mortality in Fiji 2003-2009 report", the abstract stated that cervical cancer is the second most frequent cancer and common cause of cancer mortality among women in Fiji. The same report concluded that cervical cancer screening in Fiji needs to be expanded and strengthened.
Why then is this not a government priority?
Fiji has ratified CEDAW which makes government accountable to provide the best quality of health service given for women in our country. Policies need to be strengthened and partnerships need to be forged to ensure that women's health is a priority in our country.
I am lucky that I still enjoy time with my mum but some of my friends, relatives, colleagues and members of the public do not have the same luxury as they have lost their mums, aunts, sisters and grandmothers to cervical cancer.
You and I can help defeat this preventable evil by urging our relatives to go for VIA screening at the Makoi and Korovou health centres or call the Fiji Nurses Association to help you.
Please let us all take control before we lose control over our future.
For any further queries please contact the VIA project manager or the Fiji Nurses Association.
* Fay Volatabu is the general secretary for the National Council of Women Fiji. The views expressed are hers and not of this newspaper. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.