A pioneering move in medical history was made when Tata Trusts translated its philanthropic sentiments into reality through the creation of Tata Memorial Hospital in 1941 as “a beacon of hope for the hopeless”. This was the first of many such path-breaking endeavours by the Trusts in the field of cancer care. Tata Memorial Hospital was handed over to the Ministry of Health in 1962 for greater good and in the interest of the nation. However, the Trusts’ vision and drive to fight this dreaded disease has been evident through several of its initiatives, the chief among them being the development of Tata Medical Center in Kolkata in 2012, to combat the high cancer prevalence in north-east states and the lack of suitable facilities in the region. Education and research in oncology to improve treatment modalities are areas that both hospitals have been engaged in, as well as models to improve access to affordable methods for treatment.
Increasingly, the Trusts have recognised the need to shift focus from curative to awareness and early detection programmes, in order to detect the disease as early as possible and lessen the ensuing morbidity and mortality caused by the disease. As a result the Trusts have embarked upon several initiatives, from implementing the National Cancer Grid — a network of 108 cancer hospitals in India — along with Tata Memorial Hospital to conducting a proof-of-concept in cross-subsidised screening programmes for certain types of cancers. The purpose of all initiatives, including exploring the possibilities of genetic tests revolutionising the approach to cancer screening and diagnostics, is to ensure greater awareness about and accessibility to cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment.
Some key programmes:
To provide affordable and equitable cancer care through technology and to support the development of specialised human resources, the Trusts would operationalise the National Cancer Grid, a network of 108 hospitals across India providing cancer care. The purpose is to increase the training capacity for allied cancer care professionals and develop low-cost methods for screening and early detection of cancer. The platform will connect all hospitals and act as a central portal which will allow easier patient movement across facilities, ongoing learning and education of healthcare workers, and research collaboration across doctors and institutions.
Tata Trusts in association with Tata Memorial Centre pioneered the launch of a much-needed Respite Palliative Care facility in November 2015. The facility, a first of its kind in India, was inaugurated at the Dr Ernest Borges Memorial Home in Bandra, Mumbai. It will provide relief to cancer patients in severe pain, supportive care and relief during treatment, and end-of-life care as well as required support to caregivers. Annually, the Centre is expected to cater to around 1,500 adults, 200 children and their families.
Awareness about and access to early diagnosis of cancer are two focus areas for Tata Trusts. As an initiative to prove sustainability of cancer screening through a cross-subsidised model, the Trusts in association with Prashanti Cancer Care Mission and Swasth India have embarked on the largest breast and cervical cancer screening of its kind in India. The purpose is for it to be a guiding initiative for replication and institutionalisation in India, with the end goal being downstaging cancer incidence and reducing the morbidity and mortality ensuing from the disease.
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