Kenya is experiencing a rising burden of Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) including hypertension, diabetes, cancer, stroke, renal failure among others. These conditions affect individuals regardless of their age, gender, social status and religion. In the past, there has been a lot of emphasis including resource allocation to most non communicable diseases except cancer. Approximately 47,887 Kenyans are diagnosed with cancer every year (Globocan 2018). Majority of the cancer patients are diagnosed in late stages and others are lost in terms of care and treatment due to various factors including financial constraints, weak social structures among others.
To address the rising burden of cancer, the Ministry of Health, County governments, civil societies and other stakeholders have focused on empowering health care providers and community health volunteers with necessary knowledge, skills and equipment to diagnose, treat and palliate cancer patients. Unfortunately, health care providers and community health volunteers have limited penetration in to the community where information regarding cancer is needed.
Cancer Awareness Volunteers (CAVs) are the missing link between health care providers and the citizens at the community level. Nanyuki Cancer Support Group (NCSP) in Laikipia County was established with the goal of bringing cancer patients together so that they are able to encourage and educate each other. The group comprises of cancer patients and survivors, care givers and community leaders. The support group has also identified limited information and myths regarding cancer as a major barrier to accessing cancer care including screening. The NCSP in partnership with the Hospice Care Kenya, Laikipia county government- department of health, Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association and Laikipia Hospice organized a three days training (1st to 3rd December 2019) on introduction to palliative care, nursing care and home based care and community mobilization and delivering cancer awareness messages. Twenty five NCSP members and community leaders were trained.
The trainees have become CHVs with the role of following up patients at the community level, creating awareness regarding cancer and advocating for improved care including treatment and palliation. It is believed the CHVs will be able to improve screening uptake and improve adherence and health seeking behaviors including nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle changes to fight cancer. Managerial and technical support to the CHVs is provided by the Nanyuki Cancer Support Group in collaboration with the Laikipia County Health Department and Nanyuki Teaching and Referral Hospital.