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The Arm Our Youths Campaign, otherwise known as the “ArOY Campaign”, is a health promotion initiative of the OCI Foundation. It started 2019, following the Foundation’s two years of annual heath symposium on breast and cervical cancer preventive techniques.
At the OCI Foundation, we believe that, for breast and cervical cancer awareness campaigns in Nigeria and other low to lower-middle income countries to be sustainable, affordable and all-encompassing, they need to target young, mostly-teenage adults in high schools. Inclusion into the regular academic curriculum of the schools, along with repeated teachings and in-built assessment systems across each of the final three years of Nigerian high schools, are the cornerstones of the ArOY campaign.
The idea, plans and approaches of this campaign are primarily the brain-child of the OCI Foundation, and have been developed through some input from the Harvard Medical School, Boston, the United States of America.
Components of the Campaign:
The need for the ArOY campaign is urgent, and needs to reach a lot of women as soon as possible. As such, the program is premised on a slogan that reflects all these. We therefore aim to Arm Our Youths by . . . Arming them Young, Arming them Now, and Arming them All.
The ArOY Campaign was designed to introduce breast and cervical cancer preventive campaigns into the academic curricula of all high schools across Nigeria. This will be in phases, with Anambra State, our primary locality, being the first state to benefit. This was successfully flagged off after a 3-day ceremony from September the 10th to the 12th, 2019, following a colorful, star-studded event at the main auditorium of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Nigeria. To see all the pictures of this event, click HEREHERE.
Thereafter, the campaign is to be extended to the rest of the senior secondary schools (SSS) in all other Nigerian states and geopolitical zones. The roll-out across the Nigerian nation is expected to be complete on or before the Year 2025. Deliberations for this roll-out is already ongoing, with high-level meetings consultations taking place between the OCI Foundation and major stakeholders. Pictures of some of these are available HERE, HERE and HERE.
For the primary targets, there are 3 main aims:
Firstly, it is to increase the proportion of all (male and female) senior secondary (high) school students with correct knowledge of the Early Symptoms, Risk Factors and Preventive Practices of the two cancers.
Secondly, we aim to increase the proportion of female students that practice monthly breast self-examination (BSE). To this end, the CerviBreast App was successfully into the Android Google App Store in September 2019. This is freely available, and is designed to stimulate compliance to this life-saving practice by sending monthly reminders.
Finally, we hope to ensure that the knowledge gained from our interventions are sustained, and we hope to achieve through this through sustained and prolonged engagement to the necessary teachings in the decades to come. We ensure “engagement” by ensuring that the teachings are repeated for each student cohort as they go through SSS classes 1, 2 and 3, and, at each level, in-built assessment systems incorporated to the Campaign means that there are examinations and quizzes.
Since 2017, the OCI Foundation has been at the vanguard of youth empowerment on preventive measures against breast and cervical cancers for female senior secondary school students in Otuocha Educational Zone of Anambra State, South-eastern Nigeria. This program has been a resounding success, with excellent feedbacks from guests and participants alike.
However, due to the limitations enforced by limited space and finances, we can only reach out to a few hundreds of participants at any point in time. And we have no way of sustaining the lessons imparted on these participants one they graduate from high school.
The ArOY Campaign was developed from these experiences of the OCI Foundation, and is designed to have a permanent solution to them.
Statistics linked to breast and cervical cancers highlight the burning platform they pose in Nigeria and other developing countries, as well as the urgent need for preventive actions. In 2012, for instance, these countries accounted for 445,000 (84%) of all cervical cancer occurrences, along with 270,000 (85%) of the resultant deaths.1 In Nigeria, about 50.3 million women aged 15 years or more are at risk of cervical cancer, and about 8,240 of the 14,089 that had the disease in 2017, died.2 Projections have it that, by the year 2025, cervical cancer deaths may rise by 63% among affected women aged “≤ 65”, and 50% for those “> 65” years.3
Breast cancer, on the other hand, was responsible for 571,000 global deaths in 2015,4 and its incidence has risen steadily from 1-in-20 women in 1960, to the current 1-in-8.5 Incidences in developing countries are historically lower than that seen in developed countries, but the gap is closing considerably. Unfortunately, outcomes from these developing countries remain poor, with five-year survival rates of about 10%, compared to 70% in developed countries.6
Poor knowledge of preventive strategies,6,7 along with the almost non-existent government-sponsored vaccination and screening programs in Nigeria and other developing countries,1 contribute to these poor statistics. Despite the apparent show of concern from the concerned governments, limitations in funds mean that this unfortunate trend will most likely continue. The implication, therefore, is that direct empowerment of women, through health campaigns, present the most realistic and affordable intervention measures in these countries.
Such campaigns are known to improve knowledge, preventive practices, screening uptake, and the adoption of positive behaviours.8 Combined, these will ultimately reduce the cancers’ incidences.3 For the foreseeable future in Nigeria, these campaigns actually remain the only realistic options available to millions of women, and underlines the need to take seriously the innovative, high-impact, and low-cost approach proposed in this project.
The measures adopted in the ArOY Campaign were primarily by the observations of the OCI Foundation, through evaluations of her anti-cancer campaigns since 2017. Peer-reviewed articles, published by a team lead by the Foundation’s President in journals of international reputation, would reveal the basis for these programs. 9-12 Direct access to the concerned publications can be found HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.
However, a full journal article discussing all of these is available here: https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-6890-2.
PARTNERS AND COLLABORATORS
We are mindful of the fact that changes like those being proposed in the ArOY Campaign are not easy to push through. We anticipate that there may be difficulties to surmount, if we are to translate our dreams and vision, to effective realities. We have set up a comprehensive 28-man Implementation/Steering Committee, made up seasoned and experienced stakeholders and technocrats. The Committee is tasked with ensuring that the curriculum, along with its implementation, is not only all-encompassing, but also culturally, socially and religiously acceptable to all. The members can be seen HERE.
As such, we have identified, and are hoping to collaborate with the following:
In the coming months and years, the ArOY, we believe, will dominate discussions and policy meetings in the public and private engagements within and outside Nigeria. We are excited about this opportunity to save lives in ways that are not only sustainable and cost-effective, but also wide-reaching and effective.
The excitement is growing, and a number of leading Nigerian news outlets have already reported this project. Anyone with interest can gain further insights by reading these reports from various news media outlets, most of which are available HERE.
CALL FOR SUPPORT
The ArOY Campaign is an expensive campaign, aiming to reach millions on women over the next few years. The costs run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Non-financial donations can be in the form of cars, office spaces, sponsorship for educational materials, and so on. Follow the link below to donate, or contact us to discuss sponsorships. No donation is small. Please remember that all donations to the OCI Foundation is tax deductible.
Donations through PayPal or Bank Cards can be made HERE.
. . . Join us, as we ARM OUR YOUTHS!
. . . Join us, as we ARM THEM YOUNG!!
. . . Join us, as we ARM THEM ALL!!!
. . . Join us, as we ARM THEM NOW!!!!
Join us, as we rise, by lifting others!!!!!
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