A Global Impact
A nonprofit radiology organization in the United States helps create a mobile imaging program to deliver screening services to impoverished women in India.
For a variety of reasons, women in India typically do not seek medical care as they age. As a result, many women never receive screenings for the numerous diseases that tend to afflict women over 40.
In an effort to change that, a nonprofit radiology organization based in the United States has helped create a program that takes mammography and other screening services directly to women half a world away.
RAD-AID International, based in Chevy Chase, Md., assists developing countries in implementing and optimizing radiology and imaging services. It began its mobile imaging program, known as Asha Jyoti, in Chandigarh, India, in 2012. The initiative delivers screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer, and osteoporosis and also provides wellness education to women in some of the city’s most impoverished areas. The program served nearly 1,800 women during its first year, and efforts are now underway to broaden its reach and, in turn, the value that radiologists bring to health care around the world. “The Asha Jyoti program has applied several of the ACR’s Imaging 3.0™ values,” says Kathryn L. Everton, MD, director of women’s imaging and co-director of RAD-AID India. “It is an example of radiologists leading a multidisciplinary team of clinicians and public-health workers to bring high-quality, affordable, appropriate, and efficient imaging to marginalized populations.”
RAD-AID started the program after a group of volunteers visited India in 2010 and met Niranjan Khandelwal, MD, head of radiology at Chandigarh’s Post Graduate Institute of Medical Research and Education (PGIMRE) — one of India’s largest academic medical centers. Khandelwal told the group about his proposal to deliver a set of screening tests to women in the city’s slums and surrounding villages free of charge. “Dr. Khandelwal had proposed to the Indian government getting a van and doing a multifaceted screening for women over 40, but unfortunately there wasn’t any funding for it at that time,” says Everton. “So when he told us his idea, we thought it sounded like a fantastic project for us.”
After RAD-AID conducted a six-month pilot, it deployed a customized mobile imaging unit that traveled three days a week to one of the city’s outer districts, parking next to a public health clinic, which provides a power source.
The program doesn’t stop at screenings, however. Khandelwal and RAD-AID have also partnered with the necessary referral departments at PGIMRE to prioritize and provide care for women who have abnormal screenings. “Waiting for medical care is a big issue in India, and navigating a complex medical system can be really intimidating,” Everton says. “We increased the chances of our project’s success by partnering with this big institution that helps ensure the women receive appropriate referral care in a timely fashion.” Providing follow-up care is important because most of the women would be unable to get it on their own. “There’s really no sense in screening for these diseases if you can’t treat them,” Everton notes.
Now that the program has been in operation for a year, RAD-AID is embarking on a four-year project to determine the likelihood of its long-term success. As part of that effort, the unit will begin traveling farther into the city’s periphery to reach more women. RAD-AID will then monitor whether more women get screened as a result of the program and whether those who have abnormal screenings return for treatment. It will also focus on funding, cost effectiveness, and sustainability of the program, which is currently supported by local donations and the local government.
RAD-AID is always in search of volunteers to maintain this and other projects, most of which do not require international travel. “RAD-AID answers a big desire for most radiologists to give back and help people who don’t have access to the same medical equipment and knowledge as patients in developed countries,” says Everton. “It makes you realize that a few people in the United States can actually have a major impact on public health all the way across the world.” For more information, visit www.rad-aid.org.
By Jenny Jones