Center for Global Women's Health Technology

Women-Inspired Strategies for Health (WISH): A Revolution against Cervical Cancer Highly Ranked

Lead Organization

Center for Global Women's Health Technology

Durham, North Carolina, United States

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

One billion women face sexual and reproductive healthcare gaps because cultural, access, and technical barriers prevent proven methods from reaching them. Cervical cancer is one glaring example of this inequity. Over 500,000 new women get cervical cancer each year and 1 in 2 die prematurely despite effective vaccination, screening, and treatment solutions. We will empower women with the knowledge, tools and support to close the cervical cancer inequity gap and in doing so, upend medical tradition and catalyze a new model of women-centered care. Through our approach, we will deploy personalized technologies that give women privacy and control over their health. We will train existing community-based health workers, midwives and nurses to bring these innovative solutions directly to women. We will personalize peer-to-peer learning through digital stories, so that each and every empowered voice becomes a beacon of knowledge for others and propels a women-led global revolution against cervical cancer.

Problem Statement

More than one billion women face sexual and reproductive healthcare gaps globally with profound consequences to their families and communities. Despite public and private sector investments, women continue to suffer cultural, financial, political, and geographic healthcare barriers. Cervical cancer, a completely preventable disease exemplifies this crisis. Over a half million new women will get cervical cancer each year, a debilitating and stigmatizing disease, and one out of two women will die. We know how to eliminate cervical cancer: vaccinate, screen and treat women before disease grows. We know it works; screening and treatment has dropped cervical cancer incidence in the U.S. by 70%. Yet screening in many low- and middle-income countries is as low as 2-10%, and vaccination does not benefit millions of women who already have the HPV virus. If this continues, several generations will see women die before the needle moves. What causes this failure? Many women, particularly poor women, cannot access healthcare. Facilities are financially and/or geographically out of reach. Many lack knowledge of cervical cancer, and many suffer from stigma and shame. Global cervical cancer elimination requires we establish a bridge between existing initiatives (WHO targets, vaccination programs) and the vulnerable populations who need them, especially women past the age of effective vaccination. How do we create this bridge? Replace traditional approaches in which women must leave home to obtain intimidating procedures in hospitals with home and community-based care led by empowered women who have control and accountability for their own bodies and health.

Solution Overview

Our solution upends traditional models and places women at the center of their healthcare and as leaders in their communities. Leveraging strong relationships in Peru and Kenya, we will deploy innovative women-centered technologies for women to screen themselves at home with the efficacy of health-facility screening. We will empower female community health staff, midwives and nurses to treat most lesions. We will augment women-to-women storytelling in person and with technology, breaking down shame and stigma, and allowing women to lead the way to their individual and community health. We will use our results to influence policy change and payment reform to stimulate public/private sector adoption of our effective, cost-efficient model. Our impact during the five-year grant will be deep in two countries. We will reach 2030 WHO targets for cervical cancer screening and treatment for at least 4 million women in Peru and Kenya and catalyze country-level scale before 2030. Subsequent phases will achieve broader impact as we work with global partner organizations to radiate out from our geographical epicenters, catalyzing a women-led global revolution against cervical cancer in Latin America, Africa and Asia. We will know we are succeeding when we see demand for adoption rise among policymakers and health system leaders.As our model transforms cervical cancer care from a hospital-based, intrusive, costly experience to community care—raising awareness and mobilizing communities will directly benefit the scale of HPV vaccination for adolescents particularly in Kenya where it has just been rolled out.

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Project Funders

  • National Institutes of Health 2011 - 2024
  • Grand Challenges Canada 2014 - 2020
  • USAID 2019 - 2021

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