Improving healthcare in Africa requires innovative thinkers, tremendous passion, and skill. This makes health innovation a difficult but particularly important process — one with plenty of potential to have a substantial impact in developing countries. The Zurak Cancer Foundation, an all-volunteer NGO from Ghana, is one organization stepping up to the challenge in communities that would otherwise be ignored; making tremendous strides in the early detection and treatment of cancer, as well as in increasing awareness of non-communicable diseases.
Studies estimate that globally, more than half of breast cancer deaths occur in women who live in developing countries. Due to a lack of awareness, nearly 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in Ghana are already in advanced stages of the disease, which leads to low treatment success and high death rates. Worsening the situation are the various misconceptions surrounding the disease and how cancer develops. CEO and Founder of the foundation, Abdul Samed Zurak has made it his mission to “demystify cancer” and make testing accessible.
The Zurak Cancer Foundation is not just a social enterprise — it is a social movement. Since its inception 4 years ago, the foundation has managed to reach 107,658 people with its awareness and education programs, and free community-based screening for prostate cancer, breast cancer, and cervical cancer. Moreover, the organization has been able to expand its volunteer base from 24 to 72 in the last year. As part of its communications strategy, the foundation regularly holds “market invasions.” During these, the teams bring their screening and testing facilities to women who sell at markets across Ghana, communicating with them in local languages (Twi, Ga, and Hausa), and encouraging them to get tested.
In 2017, with the support of Impact Hub Accra’s Health Innovation program, Abdul Samed Zurak was selected to participate in the Johnson & Johnson One Young World Summit in Bogota, Colombia, and received training in a year-long fellowship, working directly with J&J mentors.
This month, Zurak Cancer Foundation will launch a project dubbed "Visualize Ghana," in partnership with the U.S. cervical cancer prevention organization Visualize. It will focus on training medical professionals within the Ghanaian Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) system on affordable cervical cancer detection. The Ghanaian government expects the project to open up skill acquisition programs and provide access to quality healthcare in rural communities.
Zurak Cancer Foundation has also partnered with mobile payment platform Hubtel to enable crowdfunding support for its initiatives and oncology patients, and is working on partnerships with the Urology Association of Ghana and Claron Health International to train more volunteers and medical professionals, and develop more initiatives that will provide wider access to quality healthcare in Ghana.
The foundation has been making remarkable progress in erasing the disparities that exist in health education and disease prevention in Ghana, making us excited to see what 2018 has in store for the Zurak Cancer Foundation and Ghana’s health innovation sector.
Zurak Cancer Foundation’s work to ensure access to health education in Ghana is contributing to the following Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):