In a world characterised by technological advancements and medical innovations, it's heartbreaking to know that a vast number of children still lack access to basic healthcare services. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India accounts for approximately 20 per cent of childhood cancer cases worldwide, with nearly 75,000 children diagnosed each year. Additionally, nearly half of all deaths among children aged 5 to 14 are due to non-communicable diseases, including cancer, indicating a need for improvement in this area.
The grim reality is that the healthcare disparity gap widens even further when specialised care, such as cancer treatment, is considered. A diagnosis of paediatric cancer is a crisis that not only tests the resilience of affected families but also reveals the gaping holes in our healthcare systems, especially for the underprivileged. The situation is particularly dire in developing countries where access to treatment like oncology is almost non-existent. Even in wealthier nations, insurance complexities and high costs often mean families can't afford therapies that could save their child’s life. In essence, most children are being denied even the most basic cancer care.
At St Jude India ChildCare Centres (St Judes), we walk with the mission that no child should be denied treatment due to a lack of access to healthcare and therefore provide a ‘home away from home’ for children undergoing cancer treatment. The implemented model at St Judes offers an array of supportive services that bridge the gap between what the hospitals provide and what the families need to beat cancer. St Judes’ holistic model ensures children and their families get free accommodation, healthy meals, transport facilities for easy access to hospital and counselling services so they can focus solely on the well-being of their child.
We recently launched St Judes for Life to ensure that Judians - our alumni who are now cancer survivors - get timely and appropriate assistance to complete their education, maintain good health, and lead fulfilling lives. Moreover, our partnership with Star Insurance offers health and accident cover for children who have recovered from cancer. It's a first-of-its-kind initiative, and we're proud to be leading the cause for greater inclusivity for cancer-affected children within the healthcare ecosystem.
With these new ventures, we're truly committed to expanding our support network, caring for children affected by cancer in every conceivable way, and offering them the best chance for a successful future. As the world grapples with numerous challenges, including social inequality and healthcare disparities, the onus is on us to bridge the care gap and to make this not just an aspirational goal, but an achievable reality.
Through increased global collaboration and commitment, we can build on this momentum to ensure that every child, irrespective of their socio-economic background, has the opportunity for a healthy, fulfilling life.
(Anil Nair is the CEO of St Jude India Childcare Centres)
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