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Shanghai, China, September 6, 2013
By: Zia Basha

Cervical cancer is an important public health issue in mainland China, particularly for women in rural areas.  According to official Chinese statistics, over 100,000 new cervical cancer cases are recorded in China every year, accounting for one fifth of the world's total.  The number of cervical cancer cases is believed to be underestimated given the relatively high HPV prevalence demonstrated in recent Chinese studies.

Although intervention by prophylactic vaccination serves as a primary prevention mechanism of cervical cancer available in many countries, HPV vaccination is not yet accessible in mainland China.  Therefore, before the introduction of HPV vaccines, screening remains the primary prevention method.

In 2008 the "Prevention of Cervical Cancer" program was approved and announced by China's health ministry with an investment of 200 million yuan (28.3 million USD) in cash and equipment into promoting standard treatments of cervical diseases and setting up screening and treatment centers in China.  In 2012, the program was extended over the next three years and offered to more rural women.  The program has allowed 11.69 million rural women to receive free cervical cancer screening tests during a trial period that ran from 2009 to 2011 in about 200 counties nationwide.

In 2012 Project HOPE partnered with BD China to launch a three-year cervical cancer prevention program in China with a focus on six cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Shenyang and Chengdu. The primary goal of this project is to contribute to the reduction of mortality and morbidity due to cervical cancer in China through healthcare professional and public health education initiatives.

One of the key objectives of the Cervical Cancer Prevention Program is the mobilization of the community on cancer prevention through the innovative “Sister-Link-Sister” model in resource-constrained locations.  The Sister-Link-Sister model relies on a voluntary information and knowledge building platform in which Level One volunteers in cervical cancer screening and prevention education are trained and then disseminate this information to Level Two volunteers and so forth.

A total of 100 Level One volunteers are educated by professionals. Then, it is the role of each Level One volunteer to educate five Level Two volunteers.  In total, there will be 600 trained volunteers on cervical cancer prevention, and the message will continue to spread. Women are encouraged to understand the importance of regular cervical cancer screening and HPV prevention and to refer other women for screening. 

For more on Zia Basha’s experience as a Pfizer Global Health Fellow in China click here

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